Macau Billionaire Charged in UN Bribery Scheme Gets Bail

  • Ex-General Assembly president charged with taking bribes
  • Ng Lap Seng is severe flight risk, prosecutor tells judge

A Macau billionaire accused of bribing United Nations officials can be released on a $50 million bond and stay at his luxury Manhattan apartment under private guard over the objections of the U.S. government.

Ng Lap Seng, chairman of the Sun Kian Ip Group, was arrested on corruption charges along with former UN General Assembly President John Ashe and Francis Lorenzo, the Dominican Republic’s ambassador to the UN. Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said more charges and arrests are possible.

Ng Lap Seng in court at the defense table with his attorney

Source: Elizabeth Willliams via AP

Ng, 68, in federal custody since his Sept. 19 arrest, is accused of bringing $4.5 million into the U.S. and lying to officials about its purpose. He was charged Oct. 6 with bribing Ashe to win his support for the construction of a UN-sponsored conference center in Macau.

In addition to requiring Ng to post $20 million in additional cash as collateral, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox agreed Friday to delay Ng’s release until Oct. 19, to give the government a chance to decide whether to appeal. Ben Brafman, Ng’s lawyer, said his client would be required to pay $35,000 a week for armed guards to watch him round-the-clock. Ng would stay at a four-bedroom apartment worth about $4 million near the UN.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal urged Fox to deny bail, saying Friday that Ng is accused of coming to the country “for days at a time to pay bribes and then leave.” Ng has been linked to two other federal investigations, including a congressional probe of campaign financing in the 1990s.

Prosecutor ‘Troubled’

“We’re troubled by the possibility that this will allow wealthy defendants to buy their way out and to construct a private jail,” Richenthal said. “He has every reason to leave, every resource at his disposal and no reason to stay in the U.S.”

The prosecutor said Ng was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas last year and failed to appear. The $4 million Manhattan apartment which Ng’s lawyer said could be used as his base while awaiting trial was bought on Sept. 8 and then “gifted” to his co-defendant Lorenzo, according to Richenthal.

Richenthal said Ng is worth almost $2 billion and has annual income of $300 million. The Chinese citizen has international connections and holds several passports, creating a “severe risk” he’ll flee the country, said Richenthal, noting China doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S.

Fox said he believed the bail conditions would ensure Ng would return to the court.

Ng is in frail health, suffers from diabetes and wants to stay in the U.S. to fight the charges, Brafman said.

“They say rich people should not be able to construct their own prison,” Brafman said, “But he shouldn’t be denied the right to bail just because he’s rich.”

After court, Brafman said his client would be vindicated, saying, “We’re not running away. We’re going to fight the charges.”

The case is U.S. v. Ashe, 15-mj-03562, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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