A United Nations-focused news outlet linked to what US authorities call a scheme to bribe a former UN General Assembly president denied prosecution claims that Chinese government officials were involved in its development, Reuters reports.
South-South News, which publishes articles related to the UN and development issues, made the denial after a federal prosecutor on Monday said evidence had linked Chinese officials to the media outlet.
Prosecutors had previously said South-South News was used to funnel bribes from Ng Lap Seng, a billionaire real estate developer from Macau, to former General Assembly president John Ashe.
In its statement on Wednesday, New York-based South-South News said it “unequivocally rejects” allegations that Chinese officials were involved in developing South-South News.
“We have no connection with the Chinese government or any other government at any level,” South-South News said.
A spokesman for Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, who is pursuing the case, declined to comment. A lawyer for Ng, Tai Park, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The news of an alleged Chinese government link in the case came after Ashe, a former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who served as General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014, died in an apparent weight-lifting accident last week.
He was among seven people, including Ng, charged since October in what prosecutors say is an ongoing investigation into the scheme in which Ashe took US$1.3 million in bribes from Chinese businessmen.
Prosecutors said those bribes included more than US$500,000 from Ng in exchange for, among other things, Ashe seeking UN support for a UN-sponsored conference center in Macau that Ng’s company would develop.
The bribes included a US$2,500-per-month job at South-South News for Ashe’s wife, the prosecutors said.
The job was arranged by Francis Lorenzo, a suspended deputy UN ambassador from the Dominican Republic and South-South News’ former president who prosecutors say acted as an intermediary. Lorenzo pleaded guilty in April.
At Monday’s hearing, Assistant US Attorney Daniel Richenthal said Chinese officials were involved in developing South-South News, including discussions about what agenda it might advance.
The United Nations has been reviewing the accreditation status of South-South News. That process is still ongoing.
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