UNITED NATIONS – A former president of the United Nations General Assembly is accused of pursuing sustainable development by accepting bribes.
Former United Nations General Assembly President John Ashe, a billionaire Macau real estate developer, and four others were charged Tuesday for a wide-ranging corruption scheme.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bahara says Ashe took more than $1 million in bribes to help Chinese real estate developer Ng Lap Seng move a project through the U.N.
Ashe, who was once U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda before serving as president of the General Assembly in 2013, used the money to buy Rolex watches, lease a BMW and build a basketball court at his Westchester County home, federal prosecutors charged Tuesday.
Some of the money was also used to send Ashe and his family on a trip to New Orleans with first class airfare and an $850-a-night hotel.
The indictment says Ng wanted Ashe’s help to secure a contract to build a U.N. conference center in Macau. The Wall Street Journal reports Ng has been active in advancing the Chinese government’s policy goals in the Caribbean.
Bahara told reporters, “We will be asking: Is bribery business as usual at the U.N.?”
The spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Corruption is not business as usual at the U.N.”
Ng was picked up by authorities last week when he entered the U.S. with $4.5 million in cash he said he was going to use for gambling. Customs officials didn’t buy the story and detained him.
Prosecutors say Ashe used a non-profit foundation to funnel bribe money to the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda. Reuters identifies the non-profit as the Global Sustainability Foundation. Two of the organization’s officers were arrested in connection with the scheme.
Ng was a figure in the Bill Clinton foreign campaign cash scandal known as Donorgate in the 1990s.
A U.S. Senate investigation found that Ng transferred about $1.4 million to Charlie Trie, another Chinese businessman, who had known Clinton since the 1970s. Trie then gave the money to the Democratic National Committee.
Trie pleaded guilty in 1999, but Ng was never charged.
Ng was part of the Beijing-appointed committee that oversaw the Macau handover to Chinese rule in December 1999.