Ex-UN assembly chief indicted in US

John Ashe (right), a former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was general assembly president from 2013 to 2014, is shown in this courtroom sketch at his arraignment in New York on Oct 6, 2015.
John Ashe (right), a former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was general assembly president from 2013 to 2014, is shown in this courtroom sketch at his arraignment in New York on Oct 6, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Former UN General Assembly president John Ashe was indicted Tuesday by US authorities on charges of accepting more than a million dollars in bribes from Chinese real estate developers.

Ashe, from Antigua and Barbuda, president of the assembly from September 2013 to September 2014, is accused of accepting money to promote the construction of a UN conference center in Macau.

The 61-year-old is charged with accepting more than US$1.3 million (S$1.8 million) from 2011 to 2014 from a group of five people, according to the indictment filed by Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the southern district of New York.

Ashe is accused of hiding more than US$1.2 million in his income tax return.

Four other people were also charged on Tuesday, including the main suspect in the corruption ring, Ng Lap Seng, a wealthy Chinese real estate developer.

Another is Francis Lorenzo, a UN deputy ambassador from the Dominican Republic, who heads South-South News, a UN-accredited media outfit that reports on development issues.

The indictment alleges that the corruption ring relied on Ashe and others to nail down the construction of a UN-sponsored conference center in Macau at the cost of billions of dollars, as well as real estate projects in Antigua and Barbuda.

Ashe presented the UN secretary general with a report stating that a conference center in Macao was needed. It was never built.