Yesterday, a federal jury convicted the chairman of a real estate development company for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim of the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Chief Don Fort of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
After a four week trial, Ng Lap Seng, a/k/a “David Ng,” 69, of Macau, China, was convicted of two counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, one count of paying bribes and gratuities, one count of money laundering and two counts of conspiracy. No sentencing date has been set.
“The defendant’s corrupt activities were all the more egregious and shameful as he tried to hide his bribes as philanthropy,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “Corruption is a disease that has a corrosive effect on the rule of law everywhere and harms good people throughout the world. The Department is steadfast in its mission to aggressively investigate and prosecute bribery in all its forms, and vigorously protect the rule of law.”
“In his unbridled pursuit of even greater personal fortune, billionaire Ng Lap Seng corrupted the highest levels of the United Nations,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kim. “Through bribes and no show jobs, Ng turned leaders of the league of nations into his private band of profiteers. Ng’s journey from a Macau real estate mogul to convicted felon should serve as a cautionary tale to all tempted to follow his path. If you bring corruption to New York – whether to the State Capitol in Albany or to the halls of the U.N. General Assembly – your journey may very well end in a Manhattan federal courtroom, with a unanimous jury announcing your guilt.”
“Ng’s bribery scheme began at the intersection where business and intergovernmental matters overlap,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney, Jr. He may have thought this was a good place to start, but it’s doubtful this was the ending he had in mind. This case is nothing more than an example of corruption in its purest form, and we’ve proven once again that no individual or organization is powerful enough to be immune from prosecution.”
“Today’s conviction is a result of untangling a global labyrinth of complex financial transactions used by Seng to facilitate bribes to foreign officials,” said Chief Fort. “IRS-CI has become a trusted leader in pursuit of those who use corruption as their business model to circumvent the law. CI is committed to maintaining fair competition, free of corrupt practices, through a dynamic synthesis of global teamwork and our robust financial investigative talents.”
According to the evidence presented at trial, Ng, the chairman of the Sun Kian Ip Group, conspired with and paid bribes to Francis Lorenzo, a former UN Ambassador from the Dominican Republic, and John W. Ashe, the late former Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the UN and the 68th President of the UN General Assembly (“UNGA”). With the assistance of Jeff C. Yin, an accountant and co-conspirator who worked with Ng and others and previously pleaded guilty, Ng orchestrated a scheme with the principal objective of obtaining the formal support of the UN for a multi-billion dollar facility that Ng hoped to build in Macau using the Sun Kian Ip Group (the “Macau Conference Center”). Ng wanted the Macau Conference Center to serve as a location for meetings, discussions, forums, and other events associated with the UN. In particular, he wanted it to serve as the permanent home of the annual “Global South-South Development Expo,” which is run by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, and is hosted in a different country or city every year.
The trial evidence further showed that Ng bribed Ambassador Ashe and Ambassador Lorenzo (together, the “Ambassadors”) in exchange for their agreement to use their official positions to advance Ng’s interest in obtaining formal UN support for the Macau Conference Center. As the evidence demonstrated at trial, Ng paid the Ambassadors in a variety of forms. For example, Ng appointed Ambassador Lorenzo as the President of South-South News, a New York-based organization — funded by Ng — which described itself as a media platform dedicated to advancing the implementation of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, a set of philanthropic goals. Ng provided bribe payments to Ambassador Lorenzo through South-South News by transmitting payments from Macau to a company in the Dominican Republic affiliated with Ambassador Lorenzo’s brother (the “Dominican Company”). Through South-South News, Ng also made payments to Ambassador Ashe, including to Ambassador Ashe’s wife, who was paid in her capacity as a “consultant” to South-South News, and to an account that Ambassador Ashe had established, purportedly to raise money for his role as President of UNGA. Ng also provided bribes through cash and wire payments to the Ambassadors.
According to the trial evidence, one of the actions that the Ambassadors took in exchange for bribe payments, to advance Ng’s objectives, was to submit an official document to the then-UN Secretary-General in support of the Macau Conference Center (the “UN Document”). The UN Document claimed that there was a need to build the Macau Conference Center to support the UN’s global development goals. Ambassador Ashe, aided by Ambassador Lorenzo, initially submitted the UN Document to the UNGA in or about late February 2012. More than a year later, at Ng’s behest, the Ambassadors revised the UN Document to refer specifically to Ng’s company, the Sun Kian Ip Group, as a partner in the Macau Conference Center project. The UN Document requested that the Secretary-General circulate the UN Document “as a document of the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly,” under a specific item of the official UNGA agenda. The Secretary-General followed this request, thereby making the UN Document an official part of the UNGA record.
Five other defendants have been charged in this matter. Co-conspirators Lorenzo, Yin and Heidi Hong Piao have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Shiwei Yan has pleaded and was sentenced to 20 months in prison. Co-defendant Ashe passed away in 2016 and the charges against him were dismissed.
This case was investigated by the FBI and IRS-CI. Trial Attorney David A. Last of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Richenthal, Janis M. Echenberg and Douglas S. Zolkind of the Southern District of New York are prosecuting the case.
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.