“Hiding behind and misusing a nongovernmental organization that he founded and funded allegedly to help developing nations rather than himself, the defendant orchestrated and led a scheme to pay bribes to two senior U.N. ambassadors, one of whom was the elected leader of the U.N. General Assembly,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. “He kept doing so until he was caught, and then claimed that he was an innocent philanthropist, whose arrest was both political and wrongful. It was neither.”
Mr. Ashe died in 2016 at age 61 when a barbell he was lifting dropped on his neck. Mr. Lorenzo pleaded guilty to bribery and money laundering, and he testified against Mr. Ng at his trial.
Three other defendants have been convicted: Heidi Hong Piao pleaded guilty to bribery and other charges, and like Mr. Lorenzo awaits sentencing; Jeff C. Yin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and was sentenced to seven months in prison; and Shiwei Yan pleaded guilty to bribery and was sentenced to 20 months in prison.
Mr. Ng’s lawyer, Andrew M. Genser, said his client’s motivations were patriotic and philanthropic. “Given the obvious time, expense and risk involved in pursuing a project of this scope, the possibility of any economic benefit to Mr. Ng was necessarily remote and speculative,” Mr. Genser wrote in a memo to the court urging leniency.
According to that memo, Mr. Ng was the eighth of nine children of a poor family in Guangdong Province in southern China, only four of whom lived to adulthood. He moved to Macau in 1979 and built a successful fabric-selling business before moving into real estate. During the property downturn that followed the SARS epidemic of 2003, he made big investments in real estate, becoming a billionaire a decade later.
Geoffrey S. Berman, the interim United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, described the punishment as appropriate.
“Billionaire Ng Lap Seng corrupted the highest levels of the United Nations in pursuit of a multibillion-dollar real estate deal in Macau,” he said in a statement. “Ng exploited a center for international diplomacy as an instrument for his greedy intentions. This office is committed to policing official corruption wherever it may be found.”