Embattled Former UN|Chief Is in Plea Talks

     MANHATTAN (CN) — John Ashe is discussing a plea to federal charges that he took more than $1.3 million in bribes as former president of the United Nations General Assembly, his lawyer said Wednesday.
     Ashe, who headed the 68th session of the U.N. body, has seen his fortunes tumble ever since court papers implicated him in corrupt high living.
     In addition to allegedly omitting hundreds of thousands of dollars from his federal tax returns, Ashe is also accused of having accepted bribes of custom-tailored suits from Hong Kong worth roughly $59,000, two Rolexes worth $59,000 and a lease on a BMW X5, valued at roughly $40,000.
     Unable to pay his legal fees, Ashe recently lost the services of attorney Hervé Gouraige, who told the judge last month that his firm Sill Cummis & Gross has a stack of outstanding bills.
     “Our sole reason for making this application, which is based on extensive discussions with Ambassador Ashe (who has been under home detention since October 2015 and has not been able to secure employment), is that he has been unable to pay our firm’s outstanding legal invoices for the past several months, and given that he has informed us that he has already exhausted all his available financial resources, he is not in a position to pay the firm’s past and ongoing legal fees,” Gouraige wrote in a letter dated April 27.
     U.S. District Judge Broderick has since appointed attorney Jeremy Schneider as the new attorney for Ashe, who appears eager to put the case behind him.
     In a letter to the court today, Schneider asked Judge Broderick to postpone a hearing schedule for later this month until at least June 27.
     “This additional time will enable the parties to continue and hopefully conclude, the ongoing plea discussions,” Schneider wrote in a two-page letter.
     If the parties reach a deal, federal prosecutors will be closing in on Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng, a real estate mogul whom they allege to be at the center of the scheme.
     Francis Lorenzo, the deputy permanent representative for the United Nations to the Dominican Republic, pleaded guilty in March.
     Sheri Yan and Heidi Park, the former CEO and director of finance of the Global Sustainability Foundation, respectively, copped to similar charges within a week of each other in January.

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