By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Macau real estate developer and his assistant will face a federal trial in January on U.S. charges that they engaged in a bribery scheme with a former United Nations General Assembly president who died last month, a judge said on Monday.
U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick in Manhattan set a Jan. 23, 2017, trial date for Ng Lap Seng, a billionaire from the Chinese city of Macau who prosecutors contend with his assistant, Jeff Yin, bribed former General Assembly President John Ashe.
“We want to proceed to trial as quickly as possible,” Hugh Mo, a lawyer for Ng, said outside of court.
Ng, who was once linked to a campaign fundraising investigation during former president Bill Clinton’s administration, is one of seven individuals charged since October in the U.N.-related probe.
Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who served as General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014, died in an apparent weight-lifting accident last month while awaiting trial.
Prosecutors said Ng gave Ashe over $500,000 in bribes so that the diplomat, among other things, would seek the United Nations’ support for a U.N.-backed conference center in Macau that Ng’s company, Sun Kian Ip Group, would develop.
Ng, 68, and Yin, 30, face charges including conspiracy to pay bribes and gratuities and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The case against Ng followed earlier U.S. investigations into how foreign money might have been funneled into the Democratic National Committee prior to the 1996 elections, when it was working to re-elect Clinton.
A 1998 U.S. Senate report said that from 1994-96, Ng funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the DNC through a restaurateur, Charlie Trie, in Little Rock, Arkansas, who had first met Clinton in the 1970s.
During this period, Ng visited the White House 10 times, the report said, and was photographed with Clinton and then-first lady Hillary Clinton, now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
Trie later pleaded guilty. Ng, who prosecutors say stopped coming to the United States for five years during that probe, was never charged.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York, editing by G Crosse)