NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A former president of the United Nations General Assembly facing tax charges in a bribery case was released Monday on $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 U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Earlier in the day, Assistant U.S. 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 and Barbuda who served for a year in the largely ceremonial role of UN General Assembly president from September 2013 to September 2014.
So far, he faces only tax counts that carry a maximum penalty of six years in prison.
The U.S. government claims Ashe, of Dobbs Ferry, was at the center of a bribery conspiracy from 2011 through 2014 in which Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng and other businesspeople paid him over $1 million in bribes to support a multibillion-dollar UN-sponsored conference center that Ng hoped to build as his legacy in Macau, where he lived.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said earlier this month that Ashe “converted the United Nations into a platform for profit” when bribery opportunities were dangled before him by Ng and others.
He said the charges show that the “cancer of corruption that plagues too many local and state governments infects the United Nations as well.”
“As alleged, for Rolexes, bespoke suits, and a private basketball court, John Ashe, the 68th President of the U.N. General Assembly, sold himself and the global institution he led,” Bharara said.
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 organizations 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 $2 million bail package while Ng was released after posting $25 million of his $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.
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