Macau Billionaire Indicted Over Three-Year UN Bribery Scheme

  • Ex-UN General Assembly president indicted over taxes
  • Charges are part of a U.S. corruption probe at the UN

A Macau billionaire was indicted by the U.S. for conspiracy and bribery in a sweeping corruption probe at the United Nations that also netted the former president of the General Assembly and a UN ambassador for the Dominican Republic.

Ng Lap Seng, 68, was formally charged Tuesday, accused of taking part in a three-year conspiracy to bribe UN officials. He’s accused of bribing ex-UN General Assembly President John Ashe to win his support for the construction of a multibillion-dollar conference center for the organization in Macau and using Francis Lorenzo, the UN ambassador for the Dominican Republic, to funnel those payments. Ashe and Lorenzo were indicted as well.

“The indictment merely repeats the same general allegations in the original complaint‎,” Ng’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, said in a statement. “Mr. Ng intends to plead not guilty and defend against the charges.”

Ng was arrested last month in another case, and he, Ashe and Lorenzo were charged in the alleged bribery plot soon afterward. An indictment is the filing of formal charges by a grand jury that hears evidence in a case and is a key step to moving the case to trial.

Ashe is accused of filing false tax returns. The former ambassador to the UN for Antigua and Barbuda allegedly hid from the Internal Revenue Service more than $1.2 million in bribes and solicited payments to pay for a private basketball court at his home in suburban New York.

Robert Van Lierop, a lawyer for Ashe, didn’t immediately return e-mail or voice-mail messages seeking comment on the indictment.

“Ambassador Lorenzo maintains his innocence,” his lawyer, Brian Bieber, said. “He was not involved in bribery, money-laundering or any criminal conduct whatsoever.”

Ng, Ashe and Lorenzo are among five people charged. All remain in U.S. custody and are scheduled to appear Thursday before U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick.

A federal magistrate has said that Ng, chairman of the Sun Kian Ip Group, could be released on a $50 million bond as long as he remains at his Manhattan apartment watched by private security guards. The U.S. is challenging that ruling and Ng’s release has been delayed until Thursday.

The indictment added several new criminal charges against the defendant.

The case is U.S. v. Ashe, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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