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Reuters/Handout
David Ng Lap-seng in Macau.

US authorities are investigating an alleged UN bribery scheme

By Richard Macauley

United Nations officials are being investigated for allegedly accepting bribes in return for supporting real estate developments in Macau, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). The US investigation represents a widening of the probe into David Ng Lap-seng, a Macau real estate mogul. Ng was arrested last month (paywall) in the United States for allegedly “lying to US officials” about the purpose of millions of dollars he had brought into the country.

US authorities—including the FBI and the office of Preet Bharara, the US attorney in Manhattan—could file charges against the UN officials as early as today (Oct. 6), according to the report. It remains unclear how many officials are believed to be involved in the alleged scheme, and whether they’re current or past members of the UN.

Ng has high-level ties to both Chinese and US government officials. In 1998 he was named in a US Democratic Party funding scandal that alleged he had wired over $1 million from accounts in Macau and Hong Kong to bank accounts in Washington, DC and the state of Arkansas, the home of former president Bill Clinton. Clinton met with Ng several times during his presidency, and Ng visited the White House on multiple occasions. In 1999, Ng was appointed by Beijing to a team that oversaw the return of Macau from Portuguese rule to Chinese.

Ng’s lawyers told the Wall Street Journal that the Macau businessman has not committed any crimes, and that they are unaware of any connection between Ng and UN officials. Ng, the chairman of the Sun Kian Ip Group, which is headquartered in Macau and has offices in New York, had brought $4.5 million in cash to the US in the past two years, and is suspected of wiring a further $19 million to various accounts there since 2010.

He was arrested and charged along with his assistant in September after telling customs officials the money was for real estate, art, and gambling in Las Vegas; a complaint filed in a Manhattan federal court does not say what US authorities believe Ng used (or planned to use) the money for.