“Is bribery business as usual at the UN?”
Today US authorities charged former United Nations General Assembly President John Ashe with accepting over a million dollars in bribes from Chinese real estate mogul Ng Lap Seng in exchange for lucrative government contracts.
More via Fox News:
In exchange for the money, federal prosecutors say Ashe used his position as Permanent Resident to the United Nations for Antigua and Barbuda and General Assembly head to introduce a U.N. document in support of a real estate project being developed by Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng.
Prosecutors say some of the bribe money was used to pay for Ashe’s family vacation and to construct a basketball court at his home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. He opened two bank accounts to receive the funds and then underreported his income by more than $1.2 million, officials said.
“There is a lot more work to do,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, told reporters on Tuesday when asked about the probe. He said more charges were possible, adding, “We will be asking the question: Is bribery business as usual at the U.N.?”
Ashe was arrested today; Ng was already being held, and five others have also been arrested in connection with the scheme. At least one other diplomat, Francis Lorenzo of the Dominican Republic, is also being held, along with two naturalized citizens who were living in China and who officials suspect were helping push the deals through.
This isn’t the first time the United Nations has had to deal with an embarrassing pay-for-play scandal:
The case could also prove highly embarrassing to the United Nations, which has vowed to act with greater transparency and accountability after past scandals. Just a decade ago, the United Nations was rocked by the details of an independent commission that found widespread abuse of its oil-for-food program in Iraq, turning one of its biggest humanitarian efforts into one of its biggest scandals.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said through his spokesman that he was “shocked and deeply saddened” at the accusations of corruption.
“They go to the heart of the integrity of the legislative process of the United Nations,” the spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, said on Tuesday.
The investigation is continuing, and prosecutors have said that more arrests are “likely.”
Bonus: in an interview from 2013, right after his appointment, Ashe talked up his goals for his tenure—and at around the 8 minute mark, executed a 100-yard punt on Syria:
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