A former UN General Assembly president was arrested Tuesday and charged with accepting over $1 million in bribes and a trip to New Orleans from a billionaire Chinese real estate mogul and other businesspeople to pave the way for lucrative investments. John Ashe, the UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who served in the largely ceremonial post from September 2013 to September 2014, faces conspiracy- and bribery-related charges along with five others, including Francis Lorenzo, a deputy UN ambassador from the Dominican Republic. Others charged in a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court: Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng, arrested two weeks ago with his chief assistant, Jeff C. Yin, a US citizen whose bail was revoked last week after investigators said he lied post-arrest. Two others allegedly involved with Ng and who aided the scheme were arrested, per prosecutors: Sheri Yan and Heidi Park, both naturalized US citizens living in China.
According to court papers, Ashe used his UN positions to introduce a document supporting a multibillion-dollar UN-sponsored conference center that Ng hoped to build as his legacy in Macau, where he lived. Prosecutors said the center would function as a satellite operation for the world body. The scheme unfolded from 2011 through 2014 and included Ashe's tenure as GA head, prosecutors said. Authorities said in return for bribes, Ashe used his UN authority to promote Ng's interests and helped Ng meet government officials from Antigua who could help with investments. Prosecutors said bribe money funded first-class airfare for Ashe, his wife, and two kids to New Orleans, where they stayed in an $850-a-night hotel room. Other money, they said, was used for a $30,000 basketball court at his home in Dobbs Ferry, NY. He opened two bank accounts to receive the funds, then underreported his income by more than $1.2 million, officials said. (Read more United Nations stories.)