A billionaire real estate developer from Macau was sentenced to four years in prison on Friday for bribing two diplomats, including a former president of the United Nations General Assembly, to help him build a conference center in Macau.
The corruption case was the worst financial scandal for the world body since the abuse of the Iraqi oil-for-food program more than 20 years ago. In 2016, a panel appointed by the secretary general at the time, Ban Ki-moon, recommended new ethical rules and financial disclosure standards for the president the General Assembly, who is elected on a yearly basis.
The developer, Ng Lap Seng, 69, was convicted in Federal District Court in Manhattan last July on two counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, one count of paying bribes, one count of money laundering, and two counts of conspiracy.
The judge, Vernon S. Broderick, ordered Mr. Ng to forfeit $1.5 million, representing the assets used in the crimes, and to pay a $1 million fine.
Prosecutors had sought a sentence of more than six years, while Mr. Ng’s lawyers had urged Judge Broderick to sentence him to time served and let him return to China. Mr. Ng, who is also known as David Ng and as Wu Lisheng (the Mandarin transliteration of his Cantonese name), has been under house arrest since 2015.
From 2011 to 2015, prosecutors said, Mr. Ng paid bribes to two diplomats at the United Nations, Francis Lorenzo of the Dominican Republic and John W. Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda. Mr. Ashe served as president of the General Assembly in 2013-14.
The bribes were intended to secure the diplomats’ support for a multibillion-dollar conference center in Macau that Mr. Ng hoped to build using his company, the Sun Kian Ip Group. The center would have hosted meetings, discussions and other events, and served as a home for the Global South-South Development Expo, which brings together poor countries to cooperate on development goals.
Some of the payments were funneled through South-South News, a New York-based organization Mr. Ng set up as a media platform to advance the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.
ImageNg Lap Seng in New York in 2015.CreditAndrew Gombert/EPA, via Shutterstock
Prosecutors said that Mr. Ng hoped that the center would help transform Macau, a former Portuguese colony now best known as a gambling hub, into the “Geneva of Asia.”
“Hiding behind and misusing a nongovernmental organization that he founded and funded allegedly to help