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Indictment in United Nations bribery case includes new bribery, money laundering charges

NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors beefed up charges Tuesday in a bribery conspiracy case that has ensnared a former president of the U.N. General Assembly, a Dominican Republic diplomat and a Chinese billionaire.

The indictment in Manhattan federal court boosts bribery charges brought against 67-year-old wealthy real estate mogul Ng Lap Seng and Francis Lorenzo, 48, a suspended ambassador to the United Nations from the Dominican Republic, and two others. And it adds a money laundering charge against the men.

But no new charges were brought against John Ashe, 61, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who served as president of the U.N. General Assembly for one year until a year ago. He faced tax charges when he was arrested two weeks ago on allegations contained in a criminal complaint.

"Although the government added a money laundering charge to the indictment, it is predicated on the same flawed allegations as in the complaint and will be vigorously defended," said Ng's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman.

Other defence lawyers did not immediately comment.

Pleas were scheduled to be entered on the indictment Thursday. Ashe is free on bail while Lorenzo and Ng remain in custody, though bail has been set at $2 million for Lorenzo and $50 million for Ng. The government has said Ng is worth $1.8 billion.

The criminal case has brought scrutiny of practices at the United Nations, where prosecutors allege the scheme unfolded from 2011 through 2014 as Ashe and Lorenzo supported the construction of a major U.N. conference centre in Macau, where Ng lived.

Prosecutors say Ashe failed to report gifts and income he received as a result of his participation in supporting the project, including over $1 million in bribes, a trip for his family to New Orleans and money to lease a luxury car, pay his mortgage and construct a $30,000 basketball court at his home in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has ordered an audit of two foundations whose leaders are linked to the bribery case.

He has said through a spokesman that there will be no tolerance for corruption at the U.N. or in the name of the United Nations.

Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press

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