The president of the 68th United Nations General Assembly, John W. Ashe, and five others, including a billionaire developer from the Chinese territory of Macau, were charged Tuesday in connection with a multimillion-dollar corruption scandal that took place between 2011 and 2014, court records show.
A complaint brought by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District charges that the five, including billionaire Bg Lap Seng, also known as David Ng, paid bribes to Ashe, the ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda, in exchange for "benefits from the UN and the government of Antigua and Barbuda."
Among the allegations are that Ashe "accepted over $500,000 of bribes" facilitated by three of the defendants -- Ng, Jeff C. Yin and Francis Lorenzo -- in an effort to build "a multi-billion dollar, U.N.-sponsored conference center in Macau, China."
In exchange for those payments, the complaint asserts, Ashe "submitted a U.N. document to the U.N. Secretary General, which claimed that there was a purported need to build the U.N. Macau Conference Center." In addition, the complaint charges, Ashe received more than $800,000 in bribes from "various Chinese businessmen" arranged through two of the other defendants -- listed in the complaint as Shiwei Yan and Heidi Hong Piao.
Authorities charged that, as part of the scheme, Ashe "shared a portion of the bribe payments" with senior Antiguan government officials, including the prime minister.
The indictment states that Ng Lap Seng is a Chinese national and "the head of a major real estate development company" based in Macau. Prosecutors have estimated his fortune at about $1.8 billion.
Yin, also known as Yin Chuan, is listed in the complaint as an assistant to the general manager of NGO-1, a New York subsidiary of the Macau Real Estate Development Company established in 2009. Lorenzo is the honorary president, the complaint states.
Yan, also known as Sheri Yan, and Piao, also known as Heidi Park, are naturalized U.S. citizens born in China and reside "principally in China," according to the complaint.
Yan is the chief executive of NGO and Piao, according to the complaint, is the finance director.
The complaint also charges Ashe with filing "false and fraudulent" U.S. income tax returns in 2014 and 2015, alleging he "omitted a total of more than $1.2 million of income" -- including bribes received and the salary he paid himself as president of the UN General Assembly, thereby "substantially understating" his income.
It was not immediately clear how many of the defendants have actually been arrested at this point. Reuters is reporting that the charges stem from the arrest last month of Seng, who was accused of lying to U.S. customs officials about his reason for bringing $4.5 million in cash into the U.S. from China between 2013 and 2015 -- stating it was for gambling, buying art, antiques and real estate.