John W. Ashe, former U.N. General Assembly President and ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda, was arrested this Tuesday for allegedly failing to report and pay income taxes on the over $1 million received in bribes—part of a comprehensive scheme involving “a corrupt alliance of business and government, converting the UN into a platform for profit.”
According to the complaint filed in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday, Ashe, 61, accepted over $1 million dollars in bribe money between 2012 and 2014 in order to maintain an opulent lifestyle: spending $59,000 on Hong Kong hand-tailored suits, $40,000 on a lease for a 2014 BMW X5, and $30,000 for a basketball court in his Dobbs Ferry home. Other money spent went toward Ashe’s home mortgage payment, two Rolex watches, and a family trip to New Orleans, which included first-class airfare and luxury hotel accommodations. Additionally, Ashe and his wife underreported his salary by over $400,000 in 2013 and close to $800,000 in 2014.
While Ashe was arrested and charged with two counts of filing false tax returns, he has not yet been charged for his alleged role in the bribery scheme. The charges come as a result of an investigation into Ng Lap Seng, a Macau-based developer arrested in September by New York officials for bringing over $4 million into the U.S. under false claims. According to Tuesday’s complaint, Mr. Ashe accepted bribes from Ng, a billionaire Chinese real estate mogul, in order to help Ng “obtain U.N. support for his proposed U.N. Macau Conference Center” and “acquire business interests in Antigua.”
“As alleged, for Rolexes, bespoke suits, and a private basketball court, John Ashe, the 68th President of the U.N. General Assembly, sold himself and the global institution he led,” stated U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a press release. “We will continue to do everything we can to root out public corruption—whether we find it in a city council, in Albany, or as here, in the United Nations.”
According to an story from by The Associated Press, Daniel Richenthal, a prosecutor for the case, told a Manhattan federal magistrate judge that Ashe’s charges may be upgraded after he allegedly made incriminating statements after being arrested. In accordance with his arrest, Ashe was required to wear an electronic bracelet to secure his Manhattan federal court appearances and had bail set at $1 million.
Along with Ashe and Ng, the other co-defendants in the case are Jeff C. Yin, Ng’s U.S. native chief assistant, and Francis Lorenzo, a Bronx-based U.N. ambassador originally from the Dominican Republic. Additionally, Heidi Park and Sheri Yan, naturalized U.S. citizens who are based in China, were arrested for their involvement with Ng in relation to the case.
Summing up the case, FBI Assistant Director-In-Charge Diego Rodriguez stated, “The charges announced today are sending a message to those who come to the United States from other countries with corruption plans or bags full of cash—no one is above or beyond the law.”
Top photo by John Gillespie used under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic license