UN examines donations from foundation tied to alleged bribe scheme

The United Nations' headquarters in New York.
The United Nations' headquarters in New York. PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (REUTERS) - The United Nations said on Wednesday (Oct 7) it was examining how donations were used from a foundation linked to one of six people charged by United States authorities in an alleged bribery scheme tied to a former president of the UN General Assembly.

US prosecutors filed a complaint in federal court in New York on Tuesday, outlining how more than US$1.3 million (S$1.8 million) in bribes were received from Chinese businessmen, including billionaire Macau real estate developer Ng Lap Seng.

Prosecutors said some of the bribes were arranged through Sheri Yan, chief executive officer of a New York-based organisation, and Heidi Park, its finance director, who were also arrested. Central to the complaint was former president of the General Assembly John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda.

The organisation was not named, but the Global Sustainability Foundation website lists Yan and Park as holding those positions.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that the donations to the United Nations from the foundation were being scrutinised by the UN office for south-south cooperation, which he said was the recipient of the donations.

"They are taking a very close review at all of the relationships with this foundation," he said. "They are taking an active look, and I think we'll look as deeply as possible into the money, where it went and what it was used for."

"We are continuing to study the complaint that was released yesterday," he said, adding that he believed the UN office for south-south cooperation received about US$1.5 million from the foundation.

Dujarric said on Tuesday that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was "shocked and deeply troubled" by the allegations. The UN had not previously been informed of the probe, he said, but would cooperate if contacted.

Ashe, a former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was general assembly president from 2013 to 2014, was among those charged and arrested in connection with the alleged bribery scheme.