Ambassador Ashe, U.N. General Assembly President Before Kutesa, Is Dead

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Ashe passing baton to Kutesa in 2014

John Ashe the President of the United Nations General Assembly who was succeeded by Uganda's controversial Sam Kutesa has died in a freak accident while exercising, according to medical officials.

Ashe was awaiting trial on bribery charges in connection with influence peddling through his United Nations contacts. He had allegedly accepted bribes and luxury items in excess of $1.3 million between 2013 and 2014 from a billionaire Chinese businessman, Ng Lap Seng, who wanted the U.N. to endorse his various business ventures including construction of an international trade center in the Caribbean.

Ashe was General Assembly President at the time. Kutesa, Uganda's foreign affairs minister, also met with associates of the wealthy Chinese businessman at his office while President of the U.N. General Assembly from 2014 to 2015. He also traveled with his wife on a junket to China where he concluded a private deal for an "educational" project in Uganda, according to a press release by the Chinese business officials Kutesa met with.

Kutesa in a brief statement to The Black Star News last October through Uganda's ambassador to the U.N., Dr. Andrew Nduhuura, said he and his wife had not been questioned by U.S. prosecutors in connection with the bribery investigations.

Associates of the wealthy Chinese businessman, who were allegedly the go-between for delivering bribes to Ashe, operated an NGO, Global Sustainability Foundation (GSF) in New York. U.S. prosecutors said the NGO was a cover organization. The billionaire's associates were also charged in connection with bringing $4.5 million in cash to the U.S.

Ashe was listed as a senior board member of GSF while Kutesa's wife, Edith, as Vice Chair.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preete Bharara was handling the prosecution of ambassador Ashe who was charged with Ng Lap Seng and others in the alleged bribery scheme.

Prior to becoming General Assembly President Ashe had been the former UN ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda. U.S. prosecutors contend Ashe had passed some of the bribe money to Antigua's officials including prime minister Baldwin Spencer.

Ashe, who was out on bail, died June 22 while he was working out in his Dobbs Ferry, New York, home, and a barbell fell on his neck and crushed it, according to medical officials.

The details remain sketchy but Dr. Kunjlata Ashar the Westchester County medical examiner has told media that the cause of Ashe's death was "traumatic asphyxia."  Yet, earlier, the current U.N. General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft had said Ashe died of a heart attack.

It's unclear what will become of the case. Ashe's lawyer Jeremy Schneider, said the death was "a tragic loss for his family and the community."

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