NEW YORK — A Chinese billionaire was sentenced to four years in prison on May 11 for bribing United Nations officials to buy their support for a proposed U.N. centre in Macau that was never built.
Ng Lap Seng, one of China’s richest men, had no visible reaction to the sentence imposed in federal court in Manhattan. Before hearing it, he had told the judge he was “full or regret” over his conviction on charges accusing him of paying the U.N. General Assembly president and another ambassador $1.7 million in bribes.
“I want to apologize to the court for all of the trouble my actions have caused,” Ng said through an interpreter.
The defence had sought a non-prison sentence for a 69-year-old defendant it described as a devoted family man and philanthropist. But U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick said he deserved time behind bars plus a $1 million fine, in part because he threw his money around without pausing to consider the consequences.
“Instead, you became more aggressive as time went on,” Broderick said.
The judge ruled Ng could remain under 24-hour guard at a Manhattan apartment on $50 million bail until he has to report to prison in mid-July. One of his defence attorneys indicated the sentence would be appealed.
In statement after the verdict, the U.N. said it “had co-operated extensively to facilitate the proper administration of justice in this case, by disclosing thousands of documents and waiving the immunity of officials to allow them to testify at trial.”
A jury had found Ng guilty last year of bribery, conspiracy and money laundering – a triumph for prosecutors who navigated thorny legal issues surrounding immunity given to U.N. diplomats before winning the co-operation of suspended Dominican Republic Ambassador Francis Lorenzo.
Lorenzo, who pleaded guilty, testified that Ng initially paid him $20,000. It was boosted to another $30,000 a month in exchange for getting Ng’s construction business named on official U.N. documents as the company that would build the Macau centre for Southern Hemisphere nations.
Defence lawyers contended the payments were ordinary. They blamed Lorenzo and the other ambassador – U.N. General Assembly President John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda – for manipulating Ng.
Ashe, who also was arrested in the case, died in 2016 in an accident.