$3 Million Bail For Lorenzo and Ashe, Two United Nations Diplomats In U.S. Alleged Bribe Scheme

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Business as usual? Ban Ki-moon, Kutesa and Ashe last year when Kutesa assumed the PGA post

Bail was set separately at $3 million total for one current and an ex-United Nations diplomat, who were arrested in an alleged multi-million dollars bribery scheme with others.

Francis Lorenzo's bail was set today at $2 million by U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry B. Pitman over the objections of prosecutors who said he presented a flight risk.

Lorenzo is the deputy permanent representative to the United Nations of the Dominican Republic who, the U.S. alleges, helped facilitate millions of dollars in bribe payments to John Ashe, a former President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA) and, until last year, permanent representative to the United Nations of Antigua and Barbuda.

Earlier this week Ashe's own bail was set at $1 million.

The two were arrested with four others, during different periods and on different charges by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, in connection with a scheme whereby wealthy Chinese businessmen paid $1.3 million to Ashe in return for favors that included promoting their economic interests through the United Nations and with Caribbean leaders.

Ashe, while PGA, allegedly was paid at least $500,000 by Ng Lap Seng a Chinese billionaire who wanted him to get UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to endorse a multi-billion dollars convention center he wanted to build in Macau. Additionally Ashe, whose PGA term was 2013 to 2014, was paid $800,000 by other Chinese businessmen to similarly promote their interests. Ashe shared $100,000 with then-prime minister of Antigua Baldwin Spencer.

Ashe also solicited or received at least $3 million from foreign countries and individuals into two accounts he opened and controlled under the name of President of the General Assembly. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District alleges that Ashe transferred $1 million of the funds into an account he and his wife controlled. Money from the two PGA accounts was used by Ashe to pay for his BMW lease, expensive suits, Rolex watch and for mortgage payments on his Dobbs Ferry, New York home.

The alleged bribe payments to Ashe were concealed by the use of two non-governmental organization, one of which was New York-based Global Sustainability Foundation (GSF), the U.S. Attorney alleged. The Chairman of GSF, Ms. Sheri Yan, also was arrested allegedly for facilitating the payments to Ashe. 

Edith Kutesa, the wife of Sam Kutesa, Uganda's foreign affairs minister whose term ended in September as PGA, is the Vice Chair of GSF. Additionally Mr. Kutesa himself at the end of July this year traveled on a trip arranged by Sheri Yan to meet in China with businessmen whom Kutesa had hosted in his PGA office at the UN in May 2015.

When Sheri Yan arranged trips to China for Ashe when he was PGA the Antiguan diplomat demanded $400,000 for two separate trips, the U.S. Attorney has alleged.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney has declined to say if Mr. and Mrs. Kutesa are also targeted in the "ongoing investigation."

Mr. Kutesa in a brief statement to The Black Star News has said he and his wife have not been contacted by the U.S. Attorney. The Black Star News last year reported on Kutesa's own separate $29.2 million possible fraud and conflict of interest business with the United Nations.

"I'm not commenting on who may be in crosshairs, who may be arrested," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney said earlier this week in announcing the arrests. "It's early and we're looking at a lot of things and I wouldn't be surprised if you would see other people charged."

The government was able to build its case against the suspects partly by obtaining warrants to monitor their e-mail messages and by reviewing financial transactions.

Under terms of the bail agreements messrs Lorenzo and Ashe are to wear electronic monitoring devices, to be confined to their homes, and to surrender their passports.

Ashe's bond was to be signed by three financial guarantors and secured by $500,000 in personal or real property. As of Friday evening both Lorenzo and Ashe hadn't met their bail conditions.

Ng, Sheri Yan, and other suspects arrested have not been granted bail.

 

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