John Ashe on bail in UN bribery case
The former president of the United Nations General Assembly facing tax charges in a bribery case was released Monday on US$1-million bail even as a prosecutor said it was likely he will face additional charges.
John Ashe, 61, was freed at dusk after an electronic bracelet was attached and the last of four co-signers to his bail package was approved. He declined to comment as he left Manhattan federal court.
Earlier in the day, Assistant US Attorney Janis Echenberg told Judge Vernon S. Broderick that prosecutors were "rather likely" to bring additional charges against Ashe, a former UN ambassador from Antigua & Barbuda, who served for a year in the largely ceremonial role of UN General Assembly president until September 2014. So far, he faces only tax counts that carry a maximum penalty of six years in prison.
The United States government claims Ashe, of Dobbs Ferry, New York, was at the centre of a bribery conspiracy, from 2011 through 2014, in which Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng and other businesspeople paid him over US$1 million in bribes to support a multibillion-dollar UN-sponsored conference centre that Ng hoped to build as his legacy in Macau, where he lived.
Also charged in the case was Francis Lorenzo, a deputy UN ambassador from the Dominican Republic. Prosecutors said Lorenzo was paid tens of thousands of dollars a month by Ng's organisations to support the Macau project.
Lorenzo, 48, and Ng, 67, also were freed on bail Monday. Lorenzo, who has been suspended from his diplomatic post, met the conditions of a US$2 million bail package while Ng was released after posting US$25 million of his US$50 million bail and agreeing to pay for two private security guards around-the-clock at a Manhattan apartment to ensure he does not flee.
Lawyers for all three men have said they are fighting the charges and will be vindicated. Lawyers for Ashe and Lorenzo also say it is likely they will make immunity claims in the case.