NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former United Nations General Assembly president accused of being part of a bribery scheme would likely face additional charges, a U.S. prosecutor said on Monday, hours before the diplomat was released from jail.
John Ashe, who served in the U.N. post from 2013 to 2014, already faces two counts of tax fraud in an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court.
But prosecutors have not charged Ashe with bribery, despite allegations he took $1.3 million in bribes from Chinese businessmen, citing his possible diplomatic immunity. Prosecutors say that immunity does not apply to the tax charges.
At a court hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Janis Echenberg said prosecutors were “looking carefully” at the immunity issue, and would decide as quickly as possible about charging him for bribery.
“It is likely if not quite likely there will be additional charges here,” Echenberg said.
The prosecutor made the disclosure as U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick adjusted the conditions for Ashe to be released from jail on a $1 million bond. While prosecutors argued Ashe could flee, Herve Gouraige, his lawyer, said he posed “little if any risk of flight.”
The adjustment allowed Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda, to be released later on Monday, following his Oct. 6 arrest.
Francis Lorenzo, a suspended deputy U.N. ambassador from the Dominican Republic, was likewise released along with Ng Lap Seng, a Macau billionaire accused of bribing Ashe.
All three will be under house arrest, including Ng, who was released on a $50 million bond and will reside under the watch of private security guards at a $3.6 million apartment.
Prosecutors said Ng, a real estate developer, used intermediaries to pay Ashe more than $500,000 to seek U.N. support of a conference center in the Chinese territory.
The intermediaries included Lorenzo, who prosecutors said also received bribes, and Jeff Yin, Ng’s assistant, according to charging documents.
Ashe also received more than $800,000 in payments arranged through Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the U.N. and Antigua, prosecutors said.
They said those payments were arranged through Sheri Yan, who had been chief executive of Global Sustainability Foundation, and Heidi Park, who was its finance director.
Five defendants pleaded not guilty on Thursday after being indicted by a federal grand jury. Park remains in custody, and the deadline to indict her has not expired.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Grant McCool