United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon said that he was shocked to learn about the allegations of bribery against former General Assembly president John Ashe.
Ban’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on Tuesday said that the secretary-general was “shocked and deeply troubled” to learn about the allegations against Ashe, which “go to the heart of the integrity of the United Nations.”
Dujarric stressed that corruption is “not business as usual” at the UN and the world body had not been informed of the investigation by the US attorney’s office.
“Our Office for Legal Affairs and other senior officials were not aware of the case until it was read about in the press. Obviously, if we’re contacted by the relevant US authorities, we will cooperate with them,” Dujarric said.
Prior to his appointment as leader of the 68th session of the General Assembly in September 2013, Ashe had been Antigua and Barbuda’s permanent representative to the UN.
He was arrested on Tuesday after US attorney Preet Bharara brought charges against Ashe and five others in connection with a multi-year scheme to pay more than 1.3 million dollars in bribes to Ashe in exchange for official actions in his capacity as UNGA president and Antiguan government official in support of Chinese business interests.
“Coming from a country which is consistently number one on the world transparency index and having served for 34 years in Danish politics without being rich, I certainly am shocked about it and I think that the UN and its representatives should be held to the highest standards of transparency and ethics,” said current president of the General Assembly and former speaker of the Danish Parliament Mogens Lykketoft.
Dujarric said the UN is still studying the development and the entire case came as “news” to Ban’s staff when they read about it in the paper. Ashe was charged along with deputy UN ambassador for the Dominican Republic Francis Lorenzo, Ng Lap Seng, Jeff Yin, Shiwei Yan and Heidi Hong Piao.
According to the allegations, Ashe has been soliciting and accepting bribes since approximately 2011 from various businessmen in China, seeking to influence the actions of the UN and officials in Ashe’s home country of Antigua.
He solicited and took the bribes at the time when he served as UN ambassador for Antigua and as the 68th president of the UN General Assembly.
The bribes were facilitated by the other defendants who arranged for the transmission and laundering of over 1 million dollar of bribery money from sources in China.
In exchange for the bribes, Ashe agreed to and did perform official actions for businesspeople who were seeking benefits from the UN and Antigua.
On one occasion, he accepted over 500,000 dollar of bribes facilitated by Lorenzo and Yin from Ng, who was seeking to build a multibillion-dollar, UN-sponsored conference center in Macau, China.