Date
16 December 2017
Ng Lap Seng was charged last year with engaging in a bribery scheme with John Ashe, a former UN General Assembly president. Photo: Reuters
Ng Lap Seng was charged last year with engaging in a bribery scheme with John Ashe, a former UN General Assembly president. Photo: Reuters

US rejects claims of political motive in Macau tycoon’s trial

US prosecutors have shot down claims by a Macau billionaire in a UN bribery trial that he is being prosecuted to slow China’s influence over developing nations.

Federal prosecutors rejected as “fantastic” claims by real estate developer Ng Lap Seng’s lawyers that his case is politically motivated, Reuters reports.

“The sole cause of the defendant’s prosecution was a real conspiracy, not an invented one,” prosecutors wrote.

Ng’s lawyer declined comment.

Ng, 68, was charged last year with engaging in a bribery scheme with John Ashe, a former United Nations ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was UN General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014.

Prosecutors said Ng gave Ashe more than US$500,000 in bribes to, among other things, seek UN support for a conference center in the Chinese territory of Macau, which Ng’s company, Sun Kian Ip Group, would develop.

Ashe died in June awaiting trial. Ng has pleaded not guilty.

Ng’s lawyers accuse the government of trying to silence Ng’s advocacy for the conference center, which would have given developing nations a permanent meeting venue in China, in order to slow China’s influence over those nations.

In arguing the prosecution was not about bribery, they pointed to questions Federal Bureau of Investigation agents posed to Ng after his September 2015 arrest about whether an associate, Qin Fei, was involved with foreign intelligence.

Prosecutors on Wednesday argued agents had reason to focus on Qin, who Ng called a consultant for Sun Kian, to determine what if any relationship he had to Ng’s company, the conference center and money Ng wired to the United States.

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