Former U.N. President|John Ashe Indicted

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Federal prosecutors unveiled an indictment Tuesday of the former United Nations president they accuse of taking more than $1.3 million in bribes.
     The indictment of John Ashe, who headed the 68th session of the U.N. General Assembly, and his four accused co-conspirators comes 14 days after authorities arrested the 61-year-old at his home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
     The 10-count indictment is thin on the details of high-living that made the original, 37-page complaint a diplomatic scandal.
     Prosecutors say the bribes Ashe received took the form of custom-tailored suits from Hong Kong worth roughly $59,000, two Rolexes valued at $59,000, and the lease on a BMW X5, which added up to roughly $40,000.
     Despite these corruption accusations, Ashe in particular is only charged with two counts submitting fraudulent tax returns, allegedly omitting more than $462,000 in 2013 and more than $796,000 in 2014.
     Four others are charged with multiple counts of bribery and money laundering.
     As in the complaint, the indictment includes charges against Chinese real estate mogul Ng Lap Seng and his assistant Jeff Yin. The pair remain incarcerated since their arrest last month for purportedly trying to sneak $4.5 million past U.S. customs officials over the course of 10 trips.
     Before Ashe’s name came into play, press reports uncovered Ng as the source of hundreds of thousands of dollars illegally funneled to the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton administration.
     Though Ng and Yin insisted that they planned to spend the money on gambling and art collection, the government said its surveillance shows otherwise.
     The complaint says Ng, Yin and Francis Lorenzo, who was a deputy permanent representative for the United Nations to the Dominican Republic, arranged for Ashe to receive a $200,000 wire payment in exchange for meeting with Ng about a real estate project.
     Prosecutors say Ashe took another $300,000 to submit 67-year-old Ng’s proposal for a multibillion-dollar, U.N.-sponsored conference center in Macau.
     Though the government has also questioned Lorenzo’s role in securing a climate-change consultant gig for Ashe’s wife, the complaint makes no mention of the fact that Anilla Cherian is a doctorate-holding longtime environmentalist.
     Indeed, Cherian advised several U.N. agencies and published a book on climate change last month. Neither the complaint nor the indictment filed Tuesday lay charges against Cherian.
     Claiming that Ashe took more than $1.3 million in bribes in total, prosecutors say $800,000 came from “various Chinese businessmen,” funneled through two executives from a nongovernmental organization.
     Prosecutors named both executives, Sheri Yan, 57, and Heidi Park, 52, as defendants to the complaint. Only Yan is named as a defendant to today’s indictment. Yan and Park are the CEO and director of finance for the Global Sustainability Foundation, respectively.
     Yan and Park tried to “promote the bribery of the Antiguan prime minister,” who received $100,000 from one of Ashe’s accounts as president of the General Assembly, according to the complaint. Ashe was born in Antigua.
     Baldwin Spencer, who had been the prime minister of Antigua at the time, was not named in the complaint or the indictment.
     On top of cash, Ashe accepted “a family vacation” at an $800-per-night hotel in New Orleans, and “construction of a basketball court at his house in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y,” prosecutors say.
     The complaint quotes from an email Ashe allegedly sent Lorenzo on March 5.
     “I am asking [Ng] to make a contribution the the [sic] Office of the PGA if he wants me to go out of my way to visit Macau to see his project,” Ashe wrote, according to the complaint. “Even though Ng has made a lot of empty promises in the past, I am willing to travel to Macau to see his project, since it is important to him. But it has to made absolutely clear to him that I will not go unless I see the funds – funds which are NOT for my personal use but to help run the PGA office. Period. Please let them know that I am requesting somewhere between $100K and $250K.”
     Ashe face up to six years in prison for two counts of submitting fraudulent tax returns.
     Lorenzo, Ng, and Yin could spend up to 15 years in prison if convicted of bribery and conspiracy.
     Yan and Park are additionally charged in the complaint with a conspiracy to commit money laundering on top of the bribery counts, potentially landing them behind bars for 35 years.
     A federal judge granted Ashe and Lorenzo bail, but kept their co-defendants incarcerated.

%d bloggers like this: