New York: US prosecutors on Friday unveiled charges against a China-born woman who was arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into a scheme to pay bribes to a former United Nations General Assembly president.
Julia Vivi Wang, 55, was accused in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan of having paid a bribe of at least $500,000 to buy Antiguan diplomatic positions for her late husband and another Chinese businessman.
The bribe was solicited and facilitated by John Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda and who was General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014, the complaint said.
He was among six individuals charged in October for participating in a scheme that involved the payment of more than $1.3 million in bribes to Ashe by businessmen from China.
The latest arrest followed the guilty plea on Wednesday of one of the defendants, Francis Lorenzo, a suspended deputy United Nations ambassador from the Dominican Republic, who agreed to cooperate with U.S. authorities in the investigation.
Wang, who was arrested on Thursday and is expected to appear in court later on Friday, was the vice president of South-South News, a U.N.-focused media organization where Lorenzo was president before his arrest.
The complaint charges Wang with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. A lawyer for Wang did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the complaint, the $500,000 bribe was solicited and sought by Ashe and Lorenzo beginning in 2012 to allow Wang`s husband and the unnamed Chinese businessman to secure positions in an investment office Antigua was opening in Hong Kong.
In interviews with U.S. authorities, Lorenzo said Wang and her husband sought the positions because they would help them make money by helping others to obtain citizenship by investing in a country and by arranging for business deals.
At least a portion of the money was intended to pay off Antiguan officials, including its then-prime minister, who was not named in the complaint.