Former UN General Assembly chief charged in China-linked bribery case

US law enforcement authorities announced Tuesday that former president of the UN General Assembly John Ashe and five others were arrested and charged in an alleged scheme to pay Ashe more than US$ 1.3 billion in bribes in exchange to promote Chinese business interests. Ashe, a 61-year-old diplomat of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean, solicited and took bribes when he served as the country’s ambassador to the United Nations and as General Assembly president, a role he held from 2013 to 2014, the authorities alleged.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, said that they learned of the “very serious allegations” in the morning, which “go to the heart of the integrity of the United Nations,” adding that “the secretary general was shocked and deeply troubled.”

Among other things, Ashe accepted over US$ 500,000 in bribes from Ng Lap Seng, a Macao developer who is also known as David Ng and one of the five others charged, according to the authorities.

Ng was seeking to build a multi-billion dollar UN-sponsored conference center in Macao, a special administrative region of China, and Ashe submitted a UN document to the secretary general noting a supposed need to build the facility, according to the allegations.

Ashe, a citizen of Antigua and US permanent resident, was charged with two counts of subscribing to fraudulent US income tax returns, with each count carrying a penalty of up to three years in prison. Ng and four others were charged with bribery conspiracy and bribery.

The General Assembly annually picks a president based on regional rotation. Ashe, representing the Latin American region, was elected to the post in June 2013, drawing attention for becoming the first president from a country with a population of less than 100,000.

In April 2014, Ashe visited Japan where he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and discussed reforms in the UN Security Council, an agenda Tokyo has been pushing. PNA/Kyodo