Former Antiguan diplomat dies awaiting trial for tax fraud

John Ashe
John Ashe

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The former president of the United Nations General Assembly and Antigua and Barbuda’s permanent representative to the UN, John Ashe, has died before facing trial for tax fraud in a scandal that involved him allegedly taking more than US$1.3 million in bribes while in his UN post.

He died of a heart attack last week at his New York home.

UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft said that “despite the many as yet unproven accusations made against him, Mr. Ashe was for many years a hard-working and popular member of the diplomatic corps in New York and at the United Nations.”

“I know that his death will come as sad news to the many professional friends and colleagues he made during his time here,” he added.

Ashe served as President of the UN General Assembly – the highest policy-making body in the 70-year old organization – from September 2013 until September 2014.

Prosecutors say he used bribe money to support a lavish lifestyle that included spending $59,000 on hand-tailored suits in Hong Kong in 2013 and 2014; buying two Rolex watches in 2014 for $54,000; year paying $40,000 to lease a new BMW X5 later that year; and a $69,000 membership at a South Carolina country club.

In October last year, he was arrested and charged not with bribery but with tax fraud. He was facing two counts of filing false federal tax returns because of his failure to declare the money he allegedly received.

However, bribery and bribery conspiracy charges have been lodged against five others, including Ng Lap Seng, alias David Ng, a billionaire real estate developer from the Chinese territory of Macau who allegedly provided the bribe money; and Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN for the Dominican Republic Francis Lorenzo, who pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, money laundering, tax fraud and illegal bank accounts last March, and claimed he helped channel bribes from Chinese businessmen to Ashe.