U.S. authorities arrested a former president of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday for engaging in a wide-ranging corruption scheme involving a billionaire Macau real estate developer and four other defendants.
John Ashe, the U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was president in 2013, was accused in a complaint filed in New York of taking more than $500,000 of bribes from Ng Lap Seng, who wanted to build a multibillion-dollar U.N.-sponsored conference center in Macau.
In exchange, Ashe told the U.N. secretary general that the center needed to be built, the complaint said. It followed the arrests of Ng and his assistant, Jeff Yin, last month on separate charges.
The complaint also charged Francis Lorenzo, who had been a deputy U.N. ambassador from the Dominican Republic; Shiwei Yan, chief executive officer of an unnamed New York-based non-profit, and Heidi Hong Piao, its finance director, who the complaint said paid Ashe $20,000 a month to be an "honorary chairman."
The charges will be discussed at a press conference by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara later on Tuesday.
Lorenzo's lawyer had no immediate comment on the charges. Lawyers for the other defendants arrested on Tuesday morning could not be immediately identified.
The complaint also said Ashe received more than $800,000 of bribes from Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the U.N. and Antigua, and kicked some of the money to Antigua's prime minister at the time.
From 2012 to 2014, Ashe deposited more than $3 million from foreign governments and officials in accounts at two major American banks, the complaint said.
It said he transferred some to his wife's bank accounts and spent other sums on his home mortgage in Dobbs Ferry, New York; BMW lease payments; and Rolex watches.
The case followed the Sept. 19 arrest of Ng and Yin for falsely claimed that $4.5 million they brought into the United States from China from 2013 to 2015 was meant for gambling or buying art, antiques or real estate.
U.S. prosecutors have said Ng has a fortune of $1.8 billion, much of which he earned on developments in Macau. He sits on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an adviser to the government.
Ng heads the privately held Sun Kian Ip Group in Macau, whose foundation arm lists several ambassadors to the U.N., including Ashe, as holding leadership positions.
The U.N. general assembly presidency is a ceremonial one-year post paid for by the home country.