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U.N. Rejects Bribery as “Business-as-Usual” in World Body

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 6 2015 (IPS) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was shocked and deeply troubled to learn of the allegations against Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, a former President of the General Assembly.

The charges against Ashe, he said, goes into the heart of the integrity of the United Nations.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who is leading the investigation, has charged Ashe with conspiracy and bribery – accusing the ambassador of accepting over one million dollars in bribes from a Chinese real estate mogul and his business partners.

The charges have also been made against five others, including Ambassador Francis Lorenzo of the Dominican Republic.
Striking a note of sarcasm, Bharara told reporters: “We will be asking: Is bribery business-as-usual at the U.N.?”
But U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric was quick to refute those charges when he told reporters Tuesday: “First of all, corruption is not business-as-usual at the UN.”

“Second of all, we have… we 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,” he added.

Asked to confirm or deny the existence of a U.N. document relating to a proposed conference centre in Macau, Dujarric initially said the U.N. had not been able to find that document.

But he later said the document had been found, which is a standard letter from a Permanent Representative to the Secretary-General asking him to circulate it as an official document of the General Assembly: document A/66/748.]

The current President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark told reporters corruption has no place at the United Nations or anywhere else.

“I am deeply shocked regarding the news today concerning the President of 68th session of the UN General Assembly. It means, like the Secretary-General said this morning, that this is a very hard attack of the integrity of the United Nations.”

Lykketoft said neither he, nor his Office have been contacted by US authorities. “Of course, we stand ready to engage with all concerned as necessary,” he added.

“I think the United Nations and its representatives should be held to the highest standards of transparency and ethics,” he added.

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