Ban orders probe over graft claims against ex UNGA president

United Nations: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has ordered an internal probe of the dealings between the UN and two companies whose executives have been linked to a “serious” bribery scandal involving former President of UN General Assembly John Ashe.

Ban has requested that the Organisation’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) launch an audit of the interaction between the UN and the Global Sustainability Foundation and the Sun Kian Ip Group, and the use of any funds received from these entities, according to a UN spokesperson.

The request follows news earlier this week of serious allegations by United States’ federal prosecutors against Ashe.

“The Secretary-General is concerned about the serious nature of the allegations, which go to the heart of the work of the United Nations and its Member States,” said a statement issued by Ban’s spokesperson.

“The Secretary-General reaffirms that there will be no tolerance for any corruption at the United Nations or in the name of the United Nations,” the statement said.

“He is committed to ensuring that funds received from such private entities were handled properly according to relevant UN rules and regulations,” it said.

Ashe was arrested earlier this week and charged with accepting over USD 1.3 million bribe from businesspeople in China in exchange for using his capacity as UNGA President to support of Chinese business interests.

He along with Deputy UN Ambassador for the Dominican Republic Francis Lorenzo, Ng Lap Seng, Jeff Yin, Shiwei Yan and Heidi Hong Piao were charged in connection with a multi-year scheme to pay more than USD 1.3 million 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.

Prosecutors have alleged that Global Sustainability Foundation and the Sun Kian Ip Group are linked to the multiyear bribery scheme to promote the interests of Chinese businessman Seng.

Ban Ki-moon had said he is “shocked” and “deeply troubled” to learn about the “very serious allegations” of bribery against Ashe.

Ban’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric had said the allegations “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 had said.