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US Arrests Former UN Official

Former President of the General Assembly John Ashe.

Former President of the General Assembly John Ashe.

A former United Nations General Assembly president was arrested in the United States this week.

John Ashe is accused of accepting over $1 million and cheating on taxes to help support the interests of a Chinese businessman. A U.S. government official told reporters that Mr. Ashe sold himself and the international agency he led.

He was Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the UN from 2004 until 2013. At that time, he was elected as the president of the 68th session of the General Assembly.

John Ashe, who is 61 years old, was arrested on Tuesday at his home, just outside New York City. The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, described the charges against Mr. Ashe. They include accepting at least $1.3 million dollars in bribes in 2013 and 2014. The attorney also says Mr. Ashe did not pay U.S. taxes on the money and gifts he received. The gifts were said to include Rolex watches and a private basketball court.

Chinese billionaire

John Ashe is accused of taking the money from a Chinese businessman named Ng Lap Seng, also known as David Ng. Mr. Ng is a billionaire from Macau. He was arrested last month on separate charges.

U.S. government lawyers say Mr. Ng wanted Mr. Ashe to persuade UN officials to build a conference center in Macau. Mr. Ashe reportedly wrote and prepared an official UN document supporting Mr. Ng’s proposal.

U.S. officials have charged Mr. Ashe and five others in the complaint. The five include Francis Lorenzo, who is the current deputy ambassador of the Dominic Republic to the UN. The four others are Chinese business associates of Mr. Ng.

UN shocked

A UN spokesperson told reporters that the US government did not tell the secretariat about the investigation. He added that the secretary-general was “shocked and deeply troubled” by the charges.

The tax charges against Mr. Ashe carry a punishment of up to six years in prison. However, government lawyers say the final charges against him could be more severe.

I’m Jim Tedder.

VOA’s Margaret Basheer reported on this story. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it into Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

bribes – n. illegal or unlawful payments

complaint – n. a formal charge saying that someone has done something wrong
associates – n. aides; people who you work with or spend time with

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