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Indian ID Project is Foundation for Future Economic Progress

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

India is in the midst of the biggest national identification project in the country’s history. The aim is for every Indian to receive a voluntary electronic identification card containing his or her details and a unique number. Called an Aadhaar, it is a 12-digit unique number registered with the Unique Identification Authority of India (http://uidai.gov.in) (UIDAI). The project joins a growing trend across the global South to map populations in order to better achieve development goals.

About one-third of the world’s urban dwellers live in slums, and the United Nations estimates that number will double by 2030 as a result of rapid urbanization in developing countries. How to improve slum-dwellers’ living conditions and raise their standard of living is the big challenge of the 21st century.

With just four years to go until the 2015 deadline to meet the Millennium Development Goals (http://www.undp.org/mdg), and the current economic downturn reversing some gains, any tool that can make development decisions more precise has to be a benefit.

Innovators are turning to the opportunities afforded by digital technologies to reach slums and poor areas. The approaches vary, from India’s national identification system to new ways of using mobile phones and Internet mapping technologies. With mobile phones now available across much of the global South, and plans underway to expand access to broadband internet even in poorly served Africa, it is becoming possible to develop a digital picture of a slum and poor areas and map population needs.

Put to the right use, this powerful development tool can fast-track the delivery of aid and better connect people to markets and government services. In a country of severe regional disparities and caste (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste) divisions, the national identification number has the advantage of not documenting people in a way that would bring prejudice.

India’s Aadhaar is intended to serve a number of goals, from increasing national security to managing citizen identities, facilitating e-governance initiatives and tackling illegal immigration. While critics of ID schemes complain about the civil liberties implications of national identity card projects (www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk), it is a fact that countries that want to increase the social benefits available to their citizens need to understand who those citizens are, where they live and what their social needs are. India’s problem to date has been a lack of knowledge of its citizens: many millions exist in a limbo world of not being known to local authorities.

The unique number is stored in a database and contains details on the person’s demographics (name, age, etc.) and biometrics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biometrics) – a photograph, 10 fingerprints and an iris scan. Residents in an area find out about the Aadhaar through various sources, from local media to local government agencies. An ‘Enrolment Camp’ is established in the area where people go to register, bringing anything they have that can prove their identity. The biometric scanning takes place here. ID cards are issued between 20 and 30 days later.

On January 13, 2011 the project declared it had registered its millionth person, a 15-year-old named Sukrity from North Tripura. The goal is to register 600 million people in the next four years.

One of the immediate advantages to many poor people is gaining access to banking services for the first time, because an Aadhaar number is accepted as sufficient ID to open a bank account. The identification authority says the scheme will be “pivotal in bringing financial services to the millions of unbanked people in the country, who have been excluded so far because of their lack of identification.”

The Times of India reported in 2010 that Khaiver Hussain, a homeless man in an addiction treatment programme, was able to get a bank account after receiving the identification number. He was able to open an account with the Corporation Bank along with 27 other homeless people. Having a bank account has removed the fear he had of being robbed of his meagre savings while he slept.

Another homeless day labourer, Tufail Ahmed from Uttar Pradesh, said “This passbook and the UID card have given people like me a new identity. It has empowered us.” He has been able to use the saved money to rent a room with four other day labourers.

In countries where no national ID card schemes exist, people are turning to other methods to register and map populations in order to improve their living conditions.

In Kenya and Brazil, digital mapping projects are underway using mobile phones to paint a picture of the population living in slum areas and shanty towns. An NGO called Map Kibera (www.mapkibera.org) began work on an ambitious project to digitally map Africa’s largest slum, Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. The Map Kibera project uses an open-source software programme, OpenStreetMap (www.openstreetmap.org), to allow users to edit and add information as it is gathered.

An NGO called Rede Jovem (www.redejovem.org.br) is deploying youths armed with GPS (global positioning system)-equipped (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Positioning_System)mobile phones to map the favelas of Rio de Janerio.

Powerful tools now exist to aid digital mapping. Google Maps (www.maps.google.com) is one example.

While the project is impressively ambitious – and it remains to be seen if it is completed as planned – the economic and development implications of this vast data collection and national identification are enormous. It will enable very accurate identification of markets and needs and also of development challenges and needs. This should lead to many business innovations in the country in coming years and also draw in more business from outside the country.

Resources

1) Ushahidi is a website that was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. The new Ushahidi Engine has been created to use the lessons learned from Kenya to create a platform that allows anyone around the world to set up their own way to gather reports by mobile phone, email and the web – and map them. It is being built so that it can grow with the changing environment of the web, and to work with other websites and online tools. Website:http://blog.ushahidi.com/

2) Google Android: Get inventing! This software enables anyone to start making applications for mobile phones. And it offers a platform for developers to then sell their applications (apps). Website: www.android.com

“Unique Identity for All”: Biometric identity is being rolled out across the planet. HSB is one of the many players in this fast-growing data collection sector.
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This work is licensed under a
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By 2014, Southern Innovator had published five issues and become a recognised global innovation brand.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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What is the UN doing with your data?

If you allow another country to gain access to really critical data about your society, over time that will erode your sovereignty, you no longer have control over that data.

MI6 chief Richard Moore to BBC News (30 November 2021).

2011

France24: UN among victims of massive cyber-spying campaign

“Cyber-security experts have unveiled one of the biggest computer hacking campaigns to date, releasing a list of 72 organisations whose networks were attacked over a five-year period. Victims include the UN and several governments.

REUTERS – Security experts have discovered the biggest series of cyber attacks to date, involving the infiltration of the networks of 72 organizations including the United Nations, governments and companies around the world. … 

In the case of the United Nations, the hackers broke into the computer system of its secretariat in Geneva in 2008, hid there for nearly two years, and quietly combed through reams of secret data, according to McAfee.”

2017

June

BBC: Accenture and Microsoft plan digital IDs for millions of refugees

December

UNHCR: ID2020 and UNHCR Host Joint Workshop on Digital Identity

2019

June

Xinhua: China, UN to build big data research institute in Hangzhou

2020

January

The New Humanitarian: EXCLUSIVE: The cyber attack the UN tried to keep under wraps

“If there are no consequences for the [UN] agencies for failures like these … there will be more breaches.”

About this investigation:
While researching cybersecurity last November, we came across a confidential report about the UN. Networks and databases had been severely compromised – and almost no one we spoke to had heard about it. This article about that attack adds to The New Humanitarian’s previous coverage on humanitarian data. We look at how the UN got hacked and how it handled this breach, raising questions about the UN’s responsibilities in data protection and its diplomatic privileges.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daveywinder/2020/01/30/united-nations-confirms-serious-cyberattack-with-42-core-servers-compromised/?sh=4cb9c05d633d

UN confirms it suffered a ‘serious’ hack, but didn’t inform employees

Approximately 4,000 employees may have had their data compromised.

April

Quartz: The UN is partnering with China’s biggest surveillance software company

Foreign Policy: EXCLUSIVE U.N.: Backs Down on Partnership With Chinese Firm for 75th Anniversary: The decision comes after U.S. officials and human rights advocates complained that Tencent aids Beijing in surveillance.

October

WSJ Opinion: China Uses the U.N. to Expand Its Surveillance Reach | In the name of ‘sustainable development,’ Beijing takes the lead in data collection efforts.

December

United Nations: Inauguration Ceremony Regional Hub for Big Data in China in support of the United Nations Global Platform

“I am very honoured to join you today in this inauguration ceremony of the Regional Hub for Big Data in China, in support of the United Nations Global Platform. The inauguration of this Regional Hub is most important, and timely. 

The demand for data, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is greater than ever.  Governments are in need of detailed data on the spread of the virus and its impacts on society. Under these challenging circumstances, statistical institutes have had to respond urgently to the demand for data, and to present innovative solutions. Consequently, in these times of need, the statistical community is now able to effectively use Big Data and advanced technologies. 

For example, census data – together with detailed geospatial information – can help identify the most vulnerable populations during the pandemic. And, real-time data on the position and movement of ships, for example, can estimate the volume of cargo being transported, and thus help produce estimates on the state of the economy. These real-time shipping data are available as a global data set on the United Nations Global Platform, and can be accessed by the whole statistical community.”

2021

January

ITPro: United Nations suffers potential data breach: Hackers could have breached the database long before the UN applied a patch

March

Financial Times: Opinion Technology sector: As digital trade grows, so does western distrust of Beijing: China is moving to the forefront of global innovation but governments fear privacy breaches

April

Nikkei Asia: Comment: Data suspicions threaten to tear China and west apart: Applications by Chinese companies see 200-fold increase since 1999

May

UNHCR: Government of Pakistan delivers first new biometric identity smartcards to Afghan refugees

July

ODI: Although shocking, the Rohingya biometrics scandal is not surprising and could have been prevented

“The data privacy and security of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh has reportedly been jeopardised by the UN Refugee Agency. In an exposé published on 15 June by Human Rights Watch (HRW), UNHCR stands accused of improperly collecting the Rohingya’s biometric information and later sharing it with the Myanmar government without the Rohingya’s consent. Refugees said they had been told to register to receive aid, but the risks of sharing their biometrics had not been discussed, and the possibility this information would be shared with Myanmar was not mentioned.

The potential harm of sharing information with a regime that has a long history of manipulating registration systems to exclude and marginalise Rohingya populations is obvious. That biometrics are involved makes it worse. Unlike names or other personal information, biometrics are sticky – it’s not something you can change or escape.”

August

Reuters: ANALYSIS-Afghan panic over digital footprints spurs call for data collection rethink

Biometric Update: Concerns over Taliban accessing aid agency biometric data

“People in Afghanistan are fearful of the Taliban accessing personal information captured and stored by aid agencies including biometric data which could be used to identify individuals. Experts have raised concern that approaches used by security firms and United Nations development agencies could prove problematic for refugees and vulnerable groups, reports the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable trust of Thomson Reuters.

The Intercept reported that equipment used by the U.S. army for biometric collection has already been seized by the Taliban. Biometric data on Afghans who assisted the U.S. were widely collected, making anybody identified vulnerable to persecution from the Taliban.

Sources told the Intercept that there was little planning for such an event, while the U.S. Army plans to continue to spend another $11 million on biometrics capture equipment including 95 more devices.

The UNHCR has been using biometrics in the region since 2002 when it tested iris recognition technology on Afghan refugees in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. Aid agencies praise biometric technology’s anti fraud and contactless capabilities.”

September

Bloomberg: Cybersecurity

UN Computer Networks Breached by Hackers Earlier This Year

“Hackers breached the United Nations’ computer networks earlier this year and made off with a trove of data that could be used to target agencies within the intergovernmental organization. 

The hackers’ method for gaining access to the UN network appears to be unsophisticated: They likely got in using the stolen username and password of a UN employee purchased off the dark web.”

“Organizations like the UN are a high-value target for cyber-espionage activity,” Resecurity Chief Executive Officer Gene Yoo said. “The actor conducted the intrusion with the goal of compromising large numbers of users within the UN network for further long-term intelligence gathering.”

CPO Magazine: United Nations Data Breach: Hackers Obtained Employee Login From Dark Web, Are Executing Ongoing Attacks on UN Agencies

“A spokesperson for the United Nations has confirmed that the organization was breached by hackers in early 2021, and that attacks tied to that breach on various branches of the UN are ongoing. The data breach appears to stem from an employee login that was sold on the dark web. The attackers used this entry point to move farther into the UN’s networks and conducted reconnaissance between April and August. Information gleaned from this activity appears to have been put to use in further attacks, with attempts made on at least 53 accounts.”

UN data breach creates long-term havoc for organization

“The UN has a unique need for cutting-edge cybersecurity given that it is one of the world’s prime targets for hackers, and that it fields regular attacks from advanced operators. Many of these go unrecorded, but the organization has weathered some high-profile attacks in recent years.”

“Unique Identity for All”: Biometric identity is being rolled out across the planet. HSB is one of the many players in this fast-growing data collection sector. Companies such as HSB collect data on behalf of international organisations.
This story is from 1992 and is a rare glimpse into Canada’s data sharing agreements with the US and other countries.

Data integrity and cross-border data sharing have been concerns for a very long time. False Data Makes Border Screening Corruptible

Further Reading:

There’s a War Going On But No One Can See It by Huib Modderkolk, Bloomsbury, 02 Sept. 2021

“Based on the cases he investigated over a period of six years, award-winning Dutch journalist Huib Modderkolk takes the reader on a tour of the corridors and back doors of the globalised digital world. He reconstructs British-American espionage operations and reveals how the power relationships between countries enable intelligence services to share and withhold data from each other.”  

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff, Profile Books, 2019

“Surveillance Capitalism: A new phase in economic history in which private companies and governments track your every move with the goal of predicting and controlling your behaviour. Under surveillance capitalism you are not the customer or even the product: you are the raw material.”

BBC News: MI6 boss warns of China ‘debt traps and data traps’

“In a wide-ranging interview ahead of his first major public speech since taking on the role as head of MI6, Mr Moore:

  • warned China has the capability to “harvest data from around the world” and uses money to “get people on the hook” …

“Speaking about the threat posed by China, Mr Moore described its use of “debt traps and data traps”.

He said Beijing is “trying to use influence through its economic policies to try and sometimes, I think, get people on the hook”.

Explaining the “data trap”, he said: “If you allow another country to gain access to really critical data about your society, over time that will erode your sovereignty, you no longer have control over that data.

“That’s something which, I think, in the UK we are very alive to and we’ve taken measures to defend against.”

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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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The Strange Saga Of “South-South News” | May 2018

“We will be asking: is bribery business as usual at the UN?”, US Attorney Preet Bharara, October 2015

If proven, today’s charges will confirm that the cancer of corruption that plagues too many local and state governments infects the United Nations as well.”, US Attorney Preet Bharara, October 2015

“Corruption at any level of government undermines the rule of law and cannot be tolerated. But corruption is especially corrosive when it occurs at an international body like the United Nations. By paying bribes to two U.N. ambassadors to advance his interest in obtaining formal support for the Macau conference center project, Ng Lap Seng tried to manipulate the functions of the United Nations. The sentence handed down today demonstrates that those who engage in corruption will pay a heavy price and serves as a reminder that no one stands above the law.”, Acting Assistant General John P. Cronan, May 2018

“It is important to send a message, to the people at the UN itself and to other institutions in this country, that perverting the decision-making or attempting to pervert the decision-making through bribes will not be tolerated.”, US District Judge Vernon Broderick, May 2018

It is a story that has it all: the gambling sin-bin of Macau, human and sex trafficking, bribery, corruption, money laundering, spies, and, if they are to be believed, naive UN officials hiding behind their laissez-passer passports who knew nothing about all of this but were happy to take the money for a five-star conference and a trip to China (and a free iPad). How the UN ended up in this quagmire leaves many puzzled and perplexed. Then there is a so-called “21st century” media service that really is a “conduit” for bribery and money laundering (and possibly fake news), and who to this day is still reporting from the United Nations.

May 2018 saw the ending of one chapter in the ongoing corruption saga surrounding the executives of South-South News and their alleged bribery and money laundering conduit targeting the United Nations (UN). On 11 May 2018 Ng Lap Seng was sentenced to 4 years in prison for being the ring leader of an elaborate, multi-year, multinational scheme to bribe UN officials and launder money into the United States.

On 28 February 2018 Jeff Yin received a seven-month prison sentence related to the corruption scandal that first erupted in September 2015, with the arrests in New York (home of the UN’s global headquarters) of his boss, Macau casino owner and businessman Ng Lap Seng and assistant, Yin, by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). Foreign Policy called the case one of “The Worst Corruption Scandals of 2015”. Read the US Justice Department Docket here: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/fcpa/cases/ng-lap-seng-and-jeff-c-yin.

The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York at the time, Preet Bharara, released a flowchart showing how the alleged bribery scheme targeting the United Nations worked. A series of court trials followed for the various co-conspirators, including senior executives and board members for South-South News, culminating in the 27 July 2017 conviction of the alleged ring leader of the scheme, Macau casino billionaire Ng Lap Seng, on six counts “for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo“. He used the news service South-South News as a “conduit for bribery and money laundering” at the United Nations, according to the FBI, something admitted to by various co-conspirators in court and under oath.

Logo for New York-based, Ng Lap Seng-funded “South-South News”.

“South-South staff found him to be ‘humble, very happy to host a meeting and become closer to the U.N.,’ said Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, deputy director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, a division of the U.N., who met Mr. Ng in August when she traveled to Macau.” The Wall Street Journal (9 October 2015)

“Corruption at any level of government undermines the rule of law and cannot be tolerated. But corruption is especially corrosive when it occurs at an international body like the United Nations. By paying bribes to two U.N. ambassadors to advance his interest in obtaining formal support for the Macau conference center project, Ng Lap Seng tried to manipulate the functions of the United Nations. The sentence handed down today demonstrates that those who engage in corruption will pay a heavy price and serves as a reminder that no one stands above the law.”, Acting Assistant General John P. Cronan, May 2018
In March 2015 UNOSSC Director Yiping Zhou signed a cooperation agreement with the Sun Kian Ip Group of Macau to “set up a multi-partner trust fund to promote the cause of South-South Cooperation” (https://usanewsonline.com/2015/03/07/south-south-cooperation-and-chinese-sun-kian-ip-group-signs-cooperation-agreement/). In April 2015 UNOSSC Deputy Director Inyang Ebong-Harstrup met with the Chairman of the Sun Kian Ip Group, Ng Lap Seng, in Macau (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-n-team-had-cleared-group-at-center-of-bribery-case-1444432560).

Background

The “21st century” media service South-South News (which still exists) was founded in 2010 by Ng Lap Seng and Ambassador Francis Lorenzo with US $12 million.

Source: OFFSHORE LEAKS DATABASE
by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

According to the FBI, Seng did this with the objective of bribing UN officials, laundering money into the United States – bringing US $4.5 million into the US in cash over a period of two years – and lobbying for the building of a new UN facility in Macau for the annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) – a “Geneva of Asia”. The new facility would cost US $3 billion and be built by Ng Lap Seng’s construction company.

Macau has been called by a former UN official in charge of the organisation’s anti-human trafficking work a world centre of modern human slave trafficking. Ng Lap Seng, in a 2010 assessment by International Risk Ltd., was found to be “characterized in the media as a ‘Macau Crime Lord’ and kingpin of the international slave prostitution trade”.

Ng Lap Seng’s Sun Kian Ip Group was barred from the UN’s Global Compact, according to The Wall Street Journal, and Seng was flagged up as a person not to do business with, including by Interpol. Despite this track record and multiple warning signs, both South-South News and the United Nations took money from Ng Lap Seng. The UN has clear rules regarding due dilligence for income sources and has rules against bribery, corruption and human and sex trafficking in all its forms.

One of the co-conspirators in the scheme was former UN General Assembly President John Ashe. He died due to a weightlifting accident a day before he had to testify in a New York court room.

Other Co-Conspirators and Charges:

John W. Ashe, President of UN General Assembly: Filing False Income Tax Returns

Heidi Hong Park, Global Sustainability Foundation – Finance Director: Conspiracy to Commit Bribery

Shiwei (Sheri) Yan, Global Sustainability Foundation – Founder and CEO: Conspiracy to Commit Bribery

Francis Lorenzo, Deputy Permanent Respresentative to the UN for the Dominican Republic: Bribery

Sources: Foreign Policy, Stanford Law School, US Justice Department, The Wall Street Journal.

Update: As the net has widened, others have also been charged and associated with the original plot to bribe UN officials and launder money. They are:

Jeff Yin, aide to Ng Lap Seng. South China Morning Post: Ex-aide of Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng, jailed by US in fallout from UN bribery scandal, blames ‘traditional’ Chinese upbringing

Ying Lin, Air China. Reuters: Ex-Air China employee wins dismissal of U.S. smuggling charge

Roger Uren, formerly of the Australian Secret Intelligence ServiceThe Sydney Morning Herald: Charges loom for ex-intelligence official Roger Uren after ASIO raid

Julia Vivi (Vivian) Wang, Vice President, South-South News. Law 360: Woman Who Helped Bribe Top Diplomat Cops To FCPA CountsWKZO: Chinese-born executive pleads guilty in U.N. bribery case Stanford Law School: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Clearinghouse. Case Information: United States of America v. Julia Vivi Wang.

In the Headlines

1998

The Wall Street Journal: The Macau Connection

“Its major industries, legalized gambling and prostitution, spawn other pursuits such as money laundering, extortion, drugs and violence. Lately it’s been in the grip of “triad wars”–with the rival crime syndicates battling for control of the rackets–that have claimed at least 24 lives in the past 14 months, and taken a sharp bite out of casual tourism. … Mr. Trie’s choice of Macau as a refuge was scarcely an accident, since it is the base of his business partner Ng Lap Seng. (Mr. Ng is also known as Mr. Wu, since the Cantonese and Mandarin dialects have different pronunciations of the ideograph for his name.) The Senate report finds that Mr. Trie and Mr. Ng collaborated in a scheme to funnel “hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign funds” to the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Ng wired in a total of more than $1 million from accounts in Macau and Hong Kong to Trie accounts in the U.S. The report says that Mr. Trie’s “bank records and tax returns reveal that he received little or no income from sources other than Ng Lap Seng.”

1999

Organised Crime: A Worldwide Web?, Lintner, Bertil.Global Dialogue; Nicosia Vol. 1, Iss. 1,  (Summer 1999): 114-123.

“One of his associates, Ng Lap Seng of the Macau-based San Kin Yip company, has since been identified as the financier of Charlie Trie, who in turn has been indicted in US courts for his involvement in the donor scandal. Both Ng and Wo are allegedly close to local Triads as well as mainland Chinese commercial interests.”

Organised Crime: A Worldwide Web?
Lintner, BertilGlobal Dialogue; Nicosia Vol. 1, Iss. 1,  (Summer 1999): 114-123.

Globalization: The nation-state and international relations By Kathleen E. White, ISBN:9780415236898, 0415236894, Routledge,  2003

2011

France24: UN among victims of massive cyber-spying campaign

“Cyber-security experts have unveiled one of the biggest computer hacking campaigns to date, releasing a list of 72 organisations whose networks were attacked over a five-year period. Victims include the UN and several governments.

REUTERS – Security experts have discovered the biggest series of cyber attacks to date, involving the infiltration of the networks of 72 organizations including the United Nations, governments and companies around the world. …

In the case of the United Nations, the hackers broke into the computer system of its secretariat in Geneva in 2008, hid there for nearly two years, and quietly combed through reams of secret data, according to McAfee.”

2012

September

South-South News: 2012 South-South Awards Launched At The United Nations; Award To Recognize Heads State, Celebrities And Performers In New York City

The South-South Awards were attended by Francis Lorenzo, President of South-South News, Yiping Zhou, Director of the UNDP Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, and H.E. Amb. John Ashe, President of the High Level Committee on South-South Cooperation (13 Sept. 2012).

November

Adam Rogers, Coordinator of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty, accepts an award from Yiping Zhou, Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, for WACAP’s ‘Special contribution'”. (Vienna, November 26, 2012)

2013

November

From left to right: Achim Steiner, Head of UNEP, John Ashe, President of the UN General Assembly, Yiping Zhou, Director, UNOSSC.
From left to right: John Ashe, President of the UN General Assembly, Achim Steiner, Head of UNEP, Yiping Zhou, Director of UNOSSC. In 2015 John Ashe was arrested by the FBI and “charged with tax fraud for failure to report or pay income taxes on the over $1 million he received in bribes in 2013 and 2014.” In 2006, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs heard testimony alleging the awarding of a prize to the Secretary-General secured the post of Head of UNEP. In 2016, a UNDP audit rated the UNOSSC headed by Yiping Zhou “unsatisfactory”. In November 2013 “More than $450 million was pledged between investors, green businesses, governments and other parties at the 2013 Global South-South Development Expo as hundreds of participants exchanged Southern-grown ideas, solutions and technologies throughout the week-long event.” announced jointly by Ashe, Steiner and Zhou in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Business Insider: How China’s Filthy Rich Use Macau To Launder Their Money

“A stunning $202 billion in “ill-gotten funds are channeled through Macau each year,” according to The Congressional-Executive Commission on China Annual Report 2013.

Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks claimed that the casino and hospitality sector accounted for over 50% of Macau’s GDP but that, “its phenomenal success is based on a formula that facilitates if not encourages money laundering.”

2014

June

UN News: UN concert ‘sets stage’ for new global development agenda

UN General Assembly (UNGA) President John Ashe was arrested by the FBI in New York in 2015 and “charged with tax fraud for failure to report or pay income taxes on the over $1 million he received in bribes in 2013 and 2014.” 

2015

March

USA News Online.com: South-South Cooperation and Chinese Sun Kian Ip Group Signs [sic] Cooperation Agreement

August

UNDP: Global Strategy Forum in Macau, China Seeks to Remove Gaps Between Rich and Poor by 2030, Aug 26, 2015

“Macau, SAR, China: 25 August – A High-level Multi-stakeholders Strategy Forum on South-South cooperation for sustainable development got off to a strong start Tuesday, with more than 200 delegates, from 50+ countries. The two-day Forum began with an opening ceremony featuring distinguished and powerful champions of South-South cooperation.

“We have seen a substantial global reduction in the number of poor people living in extreme poverty,” said Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, of Dominica. “However, despite these gains, much more needs to be done. I wholeheartedly believe the path toward the kind of sustainable solutions we need lies through increase global support for south-south cooperation.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message to the Forum, said, “It is clear that every country of the South has something of value to bring to the table, and that South-South and triangular cooperation will be crucial to ensuring the achievement of the sustainable development goals, shared prosperity and a life of dignity for all, where no one is left behind.”

This Strategy Forum is a timely opportunity to “review, consolidate, and enhance existing instruments and institutional arrangements,” said Ambassador Denis Antoine of Grenada, on behalf of Sam Kutesa of Uganda, President of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly. “We need to build a more self-sustaining global South-South support architecture that addresses global and regional challenges. As we seek to strengthen support for existing initiatives, it is important to ensure that they are inclusive and their benefits and impacts are equitable.”

Under the leadership of Ambassador Abul Kalam Abdul Momen of Bangladesh, President of the General Assembly High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation, participants reviewed and strategically aligned existing instruments and innovative new approaches with diverse institutional partnerships and networks toward building an institutional alliance of the Global South to address global and regional challenges.

Despite the strong performance of many developing countries, progress across the South has been uneven. Extreme poverty, rampant inequality, malnutrition and vulnerability to climate and weather-related shocks persist.

According to the Multidimensional Poverty Index launched by UNDP this year, 2.2 billion people still live in abject of poverty. About 1.4 billion people, the majority of whom live in the Global South, still have no reliable electricity, 900 million do not have access to clean water and 2.6 billion do not have adequate sanitation.

The High-level Multi-stakeholders Strategy Forum aims to share experiences, perspectives and practical approaches to supporting the Global South to develop its own long-term vision for South-South cooperation and a global institutional arrangement as envisioned by the South Summits.

The outcome of the Forum will comprise a meaningful contribution toward the implementation of the emerging Post-2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs). 

The Strategy Forum will also serve as an immediate follow-up to the High-level Meeting on South-South and Triangular Cooperation in the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Financing for Development in the South and Technology Transfer which was held from 17-18 May 2015, in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Contact information

For more information including a complete list of speakers: http://www.unossc.org/
Media Contacts:  Adam Rogers, UNOSSC Geneva: adam.rogers@undp.org, mobile +41 79 849 0679; or Mithre J. Sandrasagra, UNOSSC New York: mithre.sandrasagra@undp.org, mobile +1 646 391 7834″

Reuters: U.N. examines donations from foundation tied to alleged bribe scheme

September

ABCNews: FBI Arrests Chinese Millionaire Once Tied to Clinton $$ Scandal

UNOSSC Director Yiping Zhou retires. 

Image: Twitter.

Reuters: U.S. judge revokes bail for billionaire Chinese developer’s aide

October

China Daily: Former top UN official charged in graft scheme

“US authorities charged a former president of the United Nations General Assembly, a billionaire Macao real estate developer and four others on Tuesday for engaging in a wide-ranging corruption scheme. 

John Ashe, a former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was general assembly president from 2013 to 2014, was accused in a complaint filed in federal court in New York of taking more than $1.3 million in bribes from businessmen, including developer Ng Lap Seng.”

News24: UN Looks at Donations Linked to Bribery Scandal

South China Morning Post: UN rejects US$15 million donation from Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng pending bribery investigation

The New York Times: Former U.N. President and Chinese Billionaire Are Accused in Graft Scheme

The Wall Street Journal: U.N. Team Had Cleared Group at Center of Bribery Case

“South-South staff found him to be ‘humble, very happy to host a meeting and become closer to the U.N.,’ said Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, deputy director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, a division of the U.N., who met Mr. Ng in August when she traveled to Macau.” The Wall Street Journal (9 October 2015)

The Wall Street Journal: Nonprofit Ties Scrutinized in U.N. Scandal: Alleged role of two nonprofits in bribery case sheds lights on interlaced relationships between diplomats and privately funded groups

United News of India: US charges expected in UN corruption probe involving Macau developer – source 

“Adam Rogers, an assistant director at the UN Office for South-South Cooperation [UNOSSC], said Ng made hosting that UN event possible. He called today’s reports linking a bribery probe involving UN officials to Ng “upsetting,” saying he believed the developer’s motivations were to simply facilitate hosting an important meeting.”

Hoje MacauNg Lap Seng oficialmente acusado de conspiração e suborno

Malay Mail: UN launches audit of funds linked to bribery scandal

November

Nikkei Asian Review: U.S. prosecutors allege Ng paid bribes until arrest

“Ng is charged with paying $500,000 in bribes to former United Nations diplomat John W. Ashe, primarily to get him to push for the construction of a “multibillion dollar” U.N. expo center in Macau for the benefit of Ng’s Sun Kian Ip Group.”

“Statements and briefs filed by the prosecutors indicate Ng’s financial activities in the U.S. surged this year in the weeks before and after an Aug. 25-26 U.N. conference in Macau at which some 200 delegates endorsed the construction of a “South-South Expo” center in the city.”

“Ashe played a prominent role at the Macau meeting both as chairman of the U.N. South-South Steering Committee for Sustainable Development and as co-chairman of Ng’s Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation, which sponsored the event.”

“Francis Lorenzo, who has been charged with acting as a middleman for Ng’s alleged bribes, played a similar range of roles at the Macau meeting. He was there as executive president of the South-South steering committee and the International Organization for South-South Cooperation, president of the Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation and deputy U.N. ambassador for the Dominican Republic. Around 20 U.N. ambassadors attended the meeting.”

“The Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation donated $1.5 million to the U.N. Office for South-South Cooperation to help finance the Macau meeting and another one held in Dhaka in May; the foundation earlier this year offered the U.N. office a further $13.5 million but U.N. officials have said that will not be accepted as the organization has launched multiple reviews of its ties to the foundation following the arrests of Ng and Ashe.”

2016

March

Courthouse News: United Nations Bribery Scandal Snares Gala VP

Hoje MacauCorrupção | Diplomata envolvido com Ng Lap Seng vai assumir culpa

April

Reuters: U.N. news outlet at center of bribery case defends its intergrity

Macau Business Daily: Audit uncovers trail of ‘support’

“Local billionaire Ng Lap Seng made use of five non-government organisations (NGOs) which are all affiliated to his real estate investment firm Sun Kian Ip Group to interact with six departments of the United Nations in various ways – such as sponsoring their events and funding staff travel – discloses the latest published internal audit report by the Office of Internal Oversight Service (OIOS) of the United Nations (UN).

The internal audit report, which was undertaken at the request of the Secretary-General of the UN and was released over the weekend, presents evidence that the local businessman’s attempts to curry favour with the UN could date back to 2008, when one of his NGOs was listed as a participant in the organisation’s Global Compact initiative.

According to OIOS, the five NGOs that Ng was using to interact with UN bodies are the Global Sustainability Foundation, International Organisation for South-South Co-operation, World Harmony Foundation, South-South News and Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation.”

“The UN audit body stated in the report that Sun Kian Ip Group had offered iPads to all participants for a co-sponsored event titled ‘High Level Multi Stakeholder Strategy Forum on South-South and Triangular Co-operation’ in the Special Administrative Region last August.

The local developer contributed US$1.5 million (MOP12 million) to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the event, which was attended by a number of UN Secretariat staff, OIOS said.

The report reads that the proffered iPads all had 64GB capacity and were engraved with the logo of the organisers on the back.

‘They received the iPads at the registration desk upon arrival, where they were informed that the forum was a ‘paperless event’; all documents relating to its meetings or presentations had been pre-loaded in the device for their use,’ OIOS wrote, adding that ‘there was no attempt by the organisers to take back the iPads’ when the event was concluded.

According to the audit department, three UN staff members who attended the forum only handed over the devices after the commencement of the audit. In particular, one from the Global Compact Office stated to the audit body that he kept the iPad for himself.”

“The UN audit also found that Ng’s self-owned news outlet South-South News had funded travel for a staff member of the UN Department for General Assembly and Conference Management for two seminars in Hong Kong and Macau last April and August, respectively. The two seminars were both on the topic of ‘South-South Co-operation’.

Another staff member of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) was funded by the news company to participate in a high-level meeting in Hong Kong in April 2012. The audit report stated that the UN-Habitat later signed a memorandum with South-South News as a media partner for co-operation on the ‘World Urban Campaign’ in July 2012.

South-South News had actually been accorded media accreditation and provided office space in the UN secretariat by the UN Department of Public Information since 2010, the report claimed.”

“Recent leaks from the Panama Papers have disclosed that such a company of the local businessman was established in the British Virgin Islands in May 2010, indicating the news outlet had sponsored UN events on at least three occasions.”

“In the report, OIOS highly criticised the lack of due diligence checks by UN departments in selecting their partners, allowing the organisation to be involved with parties ‘whose interests may be at odds with those of the UN’.

‘Various resolutions of the General Assembly have recognised the importance of developing partnerships with the private sectors, NGOs and civil society… However, engaging in partnerships requires that a robust due diligence process is established and consistently applied to ensure that the attendant risks are mitigated,’ the audit body said.

The above instances of non-compliance with due diligence requirements exposed the organisation to the risk that it could get involved with external parties whose interests may be at odds with those of the United Nations – particularly its integrity, independence and impartiality,’ it concluded.”

OIOS: Office of Internal Oversight Services.

South China Morning Post: Prominent Hong Kong politicians and businessmen named in new round of Panama Papers leaks

Ng Lap Seng, Macau businessman charged by US authorities with bribing former United Nations leaders – Owned a BVI firm that ran South-South News, which had been granted the right to be stationed in the UN headquarters despite its lack of journalistic track record.”

May

Reuters: Auditors rebuke U.N. development agency after U.S. indictments

Statement concerning the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (May 5, 2016)

Executives of the UNOSSC audited by UNDP in 2016: Yiping Zhou, Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, Adam Rogers.

“The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) is an independent entity created by the General Assembly in 1974, General Assembly resolution 3251(XXIX), to support cooperation among developing countries. UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI) recently published an Audit of UNOSSC which rated the Office ‘unsatisfactory’.

The Audit makes 16 recommendations with the objective of improving UNOSSC’s effectiveness in the areas of: governance; programme and project activities; and operations. Among the recommendations are that UNOSSC should ‘work with UNDP and other partners on clarifying its accountability and reporting lines.’

UNOSSC has initiated this dialogue in line with the management action plan outlined in the Audit. Based on two of the recommendations, UNDP has taken steps to strengthen its oversight of UNOSSC, pertaining specifically to human resources and assessment processes. Both these recommendations have been implemented in line with the management action plan outlined in the Audit. As a member of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), UNDP takes performance effectiveness, accountability and transparency issues with utmost seriousness and will continue to ensure the highest standards are met in these areas.”

Statement Concerning the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), May 5, 2016.

https://archive.is/prykS

June

The FCPA Blog: Richard Bistrong: What happened to John Ashe?

“The initial reports said the cause of death was a heart attack. But later reports said it was “traumatic asphyxia with laryngeal cartilage fractures” after dropping a barbell on his neck, according to the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s office.

When I first heard the news that Ashe had died, I thought about the stress of uncertainty in his life. He was facing a two count indictment on tax evasion charges, followed by guilty pleas of other conspirators.

The DOJ was reportedly contemplating a superseding indictment based on those guilty pleas.

Pressure was building.

Perhaps Ashe was also working on a plea deal that might have been set at the status hearing on June 27.

Meanwhile the court had to appoint an attorney for Ashe. His former lawyer hadn’t been paid and asked to be dismissed. The judge appointed a new lawyer under the Criminal Justice Act.

How much stress can a man withstand?”

July

The Tibet Express: US claims China bribes UN news outlet for positive stories

“DHARAMSALA, July 8: United States has raised suspicion over China’s alleged involvement in bribing a news outlet focused on United Nations to push positive stories about China.

Chinese officials were involved in developing South-South News, a New York-based English language media outfit focused on the U.N. and development issues, according to court papers filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, reports Reuters.com July 7.

Prosecutors have claimed Macau billionaire real estate developer Ng Lap Seng, the founder of South-South News has funneled a portion of $500,000 in bribes he paid to former U.N. General Assembly President John Ashe, the report adds.”

SBS News: Woman jailed in UN bribery case

“The former head of the Global Sustainability Foundation has been jailed after admitting passing bribes to a former UN General Assembly president. …

“Sheri Yan, Global Sustainability Foundation’s former chief executive, was sentenced on Friday by US District Judge Vernon Broderick in Manhattan after pleading guilty in January to passing bribes to John Ashe, the former General Assembly president.

Broderick, who also fined her $US12,500 ($A16,650) and ordered her to forfeit $US300,000, said that because of her crimes, “there was substantial damage done to the UN itself and the image of the UN“.

“There’s no question this crime was a serious offence,” he said.”

US District Judge Vernon Broderick: “there was substantial damage done to the UN itself and the image of the UN”.

August

The Wall Street Journal: Former Air China Manager Charged with Smuggling in U.S. for Chinese Military: Suspect is associate of Macau billionaire in U.N. bribery scheme

The Wall Street Journal: U.N. Bribery Probe Uncovers Suspected Chinese Agent: U.S. officials look into Beijing businessman’s ties to indicted Macau billionaire

2017

June

ABC News: ASIO investigation targets Communist Party links to Australian political system

The Sydney Morning Herald: China’s Operation Australia: Payments, power and our politicians

July

Financial Times: Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng convicted in UN bribery case: Tycoon paid inducements to promote ‘Geneva of Asia’ project in Macau

The Sydney Morning Herald: Charges loom for ex-intelligence official Roger Uren after ASIO raid

Global Investigations Review – Just Anti-Corruption: UN bribery trial heats up with tales of extramarital affair and cash bag carried across Manhattan

AP: UN ambassador testifies he didn’t know what ‘bribe’ meant

“Lorenzo testified Ng paid him up to $50,000 monthly to push the ambitious multibillion-dollar project along and funneled another $300,000 to former U.N. General Assembly President John Ashe, who was charged in the case before he died last year in an accident at home.

Over several days, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind elicited from Lorenzo an unsavory depiction of the ease with which Lorenzo and Ashe accepted and sometimes solicited tens of thousands of dollars to supplement modest salaries as ambassadors.

Within months of meeting Ng in late 2009, Lorenzo testified, he agreed to supplement his $72,000 salary at the U.N. with $20,000 a month as president of Ng’s new not-for-profit, South South News.

“Did you have any experience in media or in news reporting?” Zolkind asked.

“No,” Lorenzo said.”

NBC News:

One of China’s Richest Men Convicted in United Nations Bribery Case

Ng Lap Seng, a Chinese billionaire who wanted to build a U.N. facility in China that would be as big as the one in New York, was convicted of bribery, conspiracy and money laundering charges on Thursday.

“She said the 69-year-old Ng paid millions of dollars to two U.N. ambassadors over a five-year period to clear away red tape so he could build a conference center in Macau that would be the “Geneva of Asia,” where tens of thousands of people would spend money at his hotel, a marina, a condominium complex, a heliport and a shopping center.

Echenberg said it was a project that would bring Ng and his family “fame and more fortune.”

“Brick by brick, bribe by bribe, the defendant built the path that he thought would build his legacy,” she said.”

December

Macau Business: MB Aug | House of Cards

“The political endeavours of Macau tycoon Ng Lap Seng over the years have seen his business empire grow across the continents, but at the ultimate price – behind bars.”

Macau News Agency: Macau in 2017 | The case of Ng Lap Seng – Politics

“A summary of the corruption case against local businessman Ng Lap Seng.”

2018

March

South China Morning Post: Ex-aide of Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng, jailed by US in fallout from UN bribery scandal, blames ‘traditional’ Chinese upbringing

April

Macau Daily Times: Prosecutors Want Six Years in Ng Lap Seng Sentencing

Reuters: Chinese-born Executive Pleads Guilty in U.N. Bribery Case

May

ABS-CBN News: Chinese Billionaire Sentenced Four Years in UN Scandal

The New York Times: Macau Tycoon Gets 4 Years in Prison for Bribing U.N. Diplomats

News Americas: Jail for Chinese Billionaire Who Bribed Caribbean Born UN Officials

Reuters: Macau Billionaire Gets Four Years Prison for Bribing U.N. Officials

LawFuel: Billionaire Jailed for 4 Years Over Casino Bribery Role

South China Morning Post: Chinese Billionaire Ng Lap-Seng gets Four Years in US Prison for Bribing UN Officials US$1.7m to Support Plans for Macau Conference Centre

The Sydney Morning Herald: Political Donor Chau Chak Wing Behind UN Bribe Scandal, Parliament told

Channel NewsAsia: Chinese-Australian Political Donor ‘Linked to UN Bribery Scandal’

The New York Times: In Australia, Fears of Chinese Meddling Rise on U.N. Bribery Case Revelation

The Australian: China’s UN Power Game

The FCPA Blog: Is China Trying to Corrupt the UN? 

The United States Department of Justice: Chairman of Macau Real Estate Development Company Sentenced to Prison for Role in Scheme to Bribe United Nations Ambassadors to Build a Multi-Billion Dollar Conference Center

“The trial evidence showed that Ng bribed Ambassador Ashe and Ambassador Lorenzo (together, the “Ambassadors”) in exchange for their agreement to use their official positions to advance Ng’s interest in obtaining formal UN support for the Macau Conference Center.  As the evidence demonstrated at trial, Ng paid the Ambassadors in a variety of forms.  For example, Ng appointed Ambassador Lorenzo as the President of South-South News, a New York-based organization — funded by Ng — which described itself as a media platform dedicated to advancing the implementation of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, a set of philanthropic goals.  Ng provided bribe payments to Ambassador Lorenzo through South-South News by transmitting payments from Macau to a company in the Dominican Republic affiliated with Ambassador Lorenzo’s brother (the “Dominican Company”).  Through South-South News, Ng also made payments to Ambassador Ashe, including to Ambassador Ashe’s wife, who was paid in her capacity as a “consultant” to South-South News, and to an account that Ambassador Ashe had established, purportedly to raise money for his role as President of UNGA.”

https://casetext.com/case/united-states-v-seng-3

“Finally, the S5 Indictment alleged that because of Ng’s bribes, “UNOSSC did not hold a UNOSSC Expo in 2015. Instead, UNOSSC held a ‘forum’ in Macau, China, co-hosted by a foundation in the name of the Macau Real Estate Development Company, in or about late August 2015.” 

The Government identified two specific acts that the Ambassadors obtained from other UN officials: (1) a letter of support for the Macau Conference Center signed by Yiping Zhou (“Zhou”), the then-Director of UNOSSC (together with other letters of support signed by Zhou, the “UNOSSC Support Letters”); and (2) a pro bono agreement with the UNOSSC that identified a foundation associated with Ng’s company as being involved in the next UNOSSC Expo (the “Pro Bono Agreement”). (Id. at 6-7.) Specifically, the Government stated: 

In an effort to further [Ng’s] objectives—and to avoid losing the payments that they had been receiving from [Ng]—the Ambassadors pressured and advised other UN officials and diplomats to support the Macau Conference Center. In particular, the defendant wanted the support of UNOSSC, which was the UN office principally responsible for matters involving south-south cooperation, and which ran the annual UNOSSC Expo that the defendant wanted to relocate permanently to the Macau Conference Center. For example, in or about late 2013 and early 2014, the Ambassadors, acting in their official capacities, caused the then-director of UNOSSC to sign a letter expressing his office’s support for the Macau Conference Center. [Ng] used this letter—like he used the revised UN Document—to demonstrate that the Macau Conference Center project had the UN’s support.”

“The defense claims that it “learned for the first time that the government contended that the UNOSSC materials [the UNOSSC Support Letters and the Pro Bono Agreement] and Mr. Yiping Zhou were part of the bribery allegations during the [Government’s] opening statement.” 

Former UNOSSC Director Yiping Zhou is pictured left, beside former Deputy Director Inyang Ebong-Harstrup.

June

ArtVoice: Judicial Watch: Russia, China may have bribed Clintons

November

The Sydney Morning Herald: Beijing’s secret plot to infiltrate UN used Australian insider

“Charming and gregarious, Sheri Yan was once known for hosting soirees around the world where diplomats mingled with millionaire business executives and socialites. But her life changed forever in October 2015, when she was arrested by FBI agents in New York and accused of bribing the former president of the United Nations General Assembly, John Ashe.”

“In 2012, the woman who had left China almost two decades earlier was preparing to launch her own organisation to help the UN reduce global poverty and aid development.

The Global Sustainability Foundation would, according to Yan’s pitch, be backed by ‘political leaders, successful business people, and members of the world’s best-known families.’”

“When Ng set up his UN-affiliated NGO South-South News, the FBI again found evidence that the Communist Party was influencing the organisation and determining the agenda it would push as it hosted conferences and published news stories.”

Source: The Age, NOVEMBER 11, 2018.

Yahoo News: China wants a new world order. At the U.N., NGOs secretly paid cash to promote Beijing’s vision.

“In August 2013, South South News, a U.N.-accredited nonprofit bankrolled by Macau casino tycoon Ng Lap Seng, began depositing $20,000 each month into Ashe’s bank account. Ng was already on the radar of U.S. authorities: In the 1990s, Senate investigators identified him as the likely conduit of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal donations to the Democratic National Committee and 1996 Clinton re-election campaign.”

“Now almost two decades later, Ng was using South-South News, a small New York-based media outlet that covered development and U.N.-related news, as a front to pay Ashe to get his support for a project to build a U.N. conference center in Macau, according to U.S. prosecutors.  In addition to enhancing China’s power and prestige, the establishment of a U.N. conference center in Macau would present China with significant intelligence-gathering and recruitment opportunities, said one former senior U.S. intelligence official.”

“The center never materialized, but court filings say that Ng was secretly being investigated as part of a counter-espionage probe of a suspected Chinese spy, and business associate of Ng’s, named Qin Fei; Ng paid to renovate Qin’s $10 million mansion on New York’s Long Island. The mansion was being converted into a conference center for South-South News, Ng’s U.N. nonprofit, said Ng’s lawyer, Hugh Mo, who denies his client had any connection with Chinese intelligence (though Qin, Mo said, was being wiretapped under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act).”

“Yan, like Ng Lap Seng, created her own U.N. nonprofit, the Global Sustainability Foundation. And like South-South News, it also received U.N. accreditation and championed the U.N’s millennium goals, an ambitious set of voluntary, country-by-country targets aimed at reducing global poverty.  Yan also arranged for bribes to Ashe to benefit three other Chinese businessmen, say U.S. court documents.”

2019

November

Law 360: Ex-UN Diplomat Spared Prison For Taking $1.5M In Bribes

2020

January

The New Humanitarian: EXCLUSIVE: The cyber attack the UN tried to keep under wraps

“If there are no consequences for the [UN] agencies for failures like these … there will be more breaches.”

About this investigation:
While researching cybersecurity last November, we came across a confidential report about the UN. Networks and databases had been severely compromised – and almost no one we spoke to had heard about it. This article about that attack adds to The New Humanitarian’s previous coverage on humanitarian data. We look at how the UN got hacked and how it handled this breach, raising questions about the UN’s responsibilities in data protection and its diplomatic privileges.

June

Reuters: U.S. Supreme Court rejects Macau billionaire’s bribery appeal

September

Reuters: Convicted billionaire Ng Lap Seng sued over $1.9 million legal bill

World Women Organization: WWO Brings Global Leaders Together to Celebrate 25th Anniversary of Beijing Declaration

“Below is a complete list of renowned speakers at the Conference:

 Hj Mohd Rashid HASNON, Deputy Speaker of Parliament of Malaysia
• Miwa KATO, Director of Operations in UNODC Headquarters Former UN Women Regional Director of Asia Pacific
• Yiping ZHOU, Special Envoy and Special Advisor of the World Women Organization, Former Director of the United Nations Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), Former Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General for South-South Cooperation”

2021

March

Law 360: Ex-Foundation Exec Avoids Prison For UN Bribery Scheme

Hong Kong Standard: UN bribery convict Ng Lap Seng to be freed early and return to Macau

Macau Daily Times: BRIBERY CONVICT NG LAP SENG TO BE RELEASED EARLY

Law 360: Fight Over Vaccine Won’t Prevent Jailed Developer’s Release

“Law360 (March 17, 2021, 9:06 PM EDT) — A jailed Chinese real estate developer’s compassionate release over COVID-19 concerns will go ahead after a Manhattan federal judge on Wednesday rejected a last minute objection from prosecutors, who cited the defendant’s initial refusal to be vaccinated last month.

Ng Lap Seng’s four-year-sentence for allegedly bribing United Nations officials will be cut short after all following U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick’s decision not to reverse his Monday order granting release. However, the 72-year-old Ng will remain in custody until he receives his second vaccine dose next week, the judge ruled.

“There’s a certain level of humanity in this situation I’ve decided to exercise and not put Mr. Ng through that sort of whipsaw effect,” the judge said at a telephone conference Wednesday afternoon. “This is a unique situation.”

Prosecutors raised the alarm Tuesday that Ng declined to be vaccinated in early February before changing his mind a few weeks later, arguing that Ng’s behavior “substantially diminishes any otherwise-applicable basis to be considered for early release in light of the pandemic.”

April

Macau Daily Times: BREAKING NEWS: BRIBERY CONVICT NG LAP SENG’S BACK IN MACAU SINCE WEDNESDAY

“Ng Lap Seng, a bribery convict who was granted early release from the U.S. prison, was confirmed to return to Macau on April 21 Wednesday, a source who wishes to stay anonymous told the Times.

The Times has contacted the Police Force today (Friday) and waiting for their confirmation about Ng’s current whereabouts.

Considering that Ng has returned to Macau from the U.S., he ought to have observed the mandatory quarantine in one of the designated facilities in Macau for 21 days, and self-health management measures for at least 7 days.

“He was chatting all the time, laughing and complaining all at the same time,” a guest, who had checked into the same quarantine hotel with Ng, revealed the matters to the Times.

Earlier on March 18 (Macau time), a U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick mandated a permission for Ng to be early released from prison on compassionate grounds due to his deteriorating health.”

June

IPS News: OPINION: Maldives’ UN General Assembly Presidency Renews Hope for Small Island Developing States

“SIDS have also shown critical leadership in the creation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“In 2014, SIDS helped lead the negotiations, ultimately creating what is known as the SAMOA Pathway, a blueprint to ensure priorities of SIDS were reflected in the final 17 SDGs.

“Before that, John William Ashe skillfully set the stage for the SDGs by working with larger countries to create a process for the SDGs that truly had global buy in.”

November

JD Supra: New Chinese Anti-Bribery Guideline Calls for Blacklisting and Expulsion of Foreign Companies That Pay Bribes in China

“China’s top anti-corruption watchdogs recently released a new anti-bribery Guideline designed to focus on multi-national corporations and individuals that pay bribes in China, as opposed to bribe recipients, the Chinese Communist Party’s traditional focus.”

“Recent decisions also highlight the DOJ’s global reach and the array of federal statutes at its disposal to prosecute bribery occurring entirely abroad. In particular, in United States v. Ng Lap Seng, the same court affirmed the FCPA conviction of a Chinese national and real estate developer for bribes paid to two United Nations ambassadors to induce the U.N. to use his convention center in Macau to host an annual U.N. convention.13” 

Further Reading

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Handbook: A Practical Guide for Multinational General Counsel, Transactional Lawyers and White Collar Criminal Practitioners by Robert W. Tarun, American Bar Association, 2010

ONU: la grande imposture by Pauline Lietar

“Le bureau de la Cooperation Sud-Sud l’a trouve tres ‘humble, tres heureux d’organiser une reunion et d’etre plus proche de l’ONU’, declare Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, une des membres de l’equipe.”

China Digital Times: Sinopsis and Jichang Lulu: UN with Chinese Characteristics 

Official photographs of the Macau High-Level Multi-Stakeholders Strategy Forum and its participants (including John Ashe) can be found here: http://www.barbarossayilgan.com/high-level-multi-stakeholders-strategy-forum-macau-china-2015/0sxxmg0jh0ss5keym50d5p63diztpd

Statement concerning the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (May 5, 2016)

“The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) is an independent entity created by the General Assembly in 1974, General Assembly resolution 3251(XXIX), to support cooperation among developing countries.

UNOSSC receives its mandate and policy framework from General Assembly decisions and resolutions. UNOSSC also serves as the Secretariat of the High-level Committee (HLC) on South-South Cooperation, a subsidiary body of the General Assembly.

UNOSSC is hosted by UNDP and, as is the case with similar entities, is expected to follow UNDP rules and regulations, including those pertaining to financial and HR management. UNOSSC is likewise subject to UNDP’s oversight and due diligence instruments.”

Statement Concerning the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), May 5, 2016.

Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs: Information Warfare: the Communist Party of China’s Influence Operations in the United States and Japan

Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs: Spotting China’s Influence Operations, with Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Corporate Frauds: Business Crimes Now Bigger, Broader, Bolder by Robin Banerjee, SAGE Publications, 2021

Crime and Development in the Global South by Jarrett Blaustein, Graham Ellison, Nathan Pino, The Palgrave Handbook of Criminology and the Global South, January 2018

Criminology and the UN Sustainable Development Goals: The Need for Support and Critique by Jarrett Blaustein, Nathan W Pino, Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Rob White, The British Journal of Criminology, Volume 58, Issue 4, July 2018

Corruption in the Global Era: Causes, Sources and Forms of Manifestation edited by Lorenzo Pasculli and Nicholas Ryder, Taylor & Francis, 2019

Who Blunders and How: The Dumb Side of the Corporate World by Robin Banerjee, Sage Publications, 2019

Wilful Blindness: How a Network of Narcos, Tycoons and CCP Agents Infiltrated the West by Sam Cooper, Optimum Publishing International, May 2021

The role of Ng Lap Seng in the “Vancouver Model” in Canada.

UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI) recently published an Audit of UNOSSC which rated the Office ‘unsatisfactory’.

The Audit makes 16 recommendations with the objective of improving UNOSSC’s  effectiveness in the areas of: governance; programme and project activities; and operations.” Excerpt from Statement (5 May 2016)

UNDP Accountability: Disclosure of internal audit reports

Audit Ratings

“On the basis of its audit results, OAI assigns an overall rating for the business unit audited. OAI uses four rating categories: “satisfactory”; “partially satisfactory/some improvement needed”; partially satisfactory/major improvement needed; and “unsatisfactory”. A definition of each audit rating is available below.”

Audit Ratings – Definition

“A rating of “satisfactory” means that the assessed governance arrangements, risk management practices and controls were adequately established and functioning well. Issues identified by the audit, if any, are unlikely to affect the achievement of the objectives of the audited entity/area.

A rating of “partially satisfactory/some improvement needed” means that the assessed governance arrangements, risk management practices and controls were generally established and functioning, but need some improvement. Issues identified by the audit do not significantly affect the achievement of the objectives of the audited entity/area.

A rating of “partially satisfactory/major improvement needed” means that the assessed governance arrangements, risk management practices and controls were established and functioning, but need major improvement. Issues identified by the audit could significantly affect the achievement of the objectives of the audited entity/area.

A rating of “unsatisfactory” means that the assessed governance arrangements, risk management practices and controls were either not adequately established or not functioning well. Issues identified by the audit could seriously compromise the achievement of the objectives of the audited entity/area.”

Reuters: Auditors rebuke U.N. development agency after U.S. indictments (3 May 2016)

How to Report Corruption and Bribery at UNDP (United Nations Development Programme)

The Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) “provides UNDP with effective independent and objective internal oversight that is designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of UNDP’s operations in achieving its development goals and objectives through the provision of internal audit and related advisory services, and investigation services.”

They can be directly emailed here: reportmisconduct@undp.org

Ethics @UNDP

“UNDP’s ethical culture demands that we all hold each other to the same standards of behavior. We expect that if integrity pervades the organization and those who commit misconduct are called to task, the message will become ingrained. The UN is looked upon as the standard bearer for ethical and humanitarian behavior. Our personnel have an obligation to uphold that legacy because individual actions affect UNDP’s image, credibility and reputation.

Key Terms and Definitions

Bribe: To try to make someone do something for you by giving them moneypresents, or something else that they want.  

Bribery: The crime of giving someone money or something else of value, often illegally, to persuade that person to do something you want.

Corruption: Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.

Discovery: The process of finding information, a place, or an objectespecially for the first time, or the thing that is found. Part of a legal process in which the lawyers from one side in a case give documents relating to their case to the other side, before the trial begins.

Due Diligence: Action that is considered reasonable for people to be expected to take in order to keep themselves or others and their property safe. The detailed examination of a company and its financial records, done before becoming involved in a business arrangement with it.

Espionage: The practice of spying or use of spies, typically by governments to obtain political and military information. 

FCPA: The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1, et seq. (“FCPA”), was enacted for the purpose of making it unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Specifically, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA prohibit the willful use of the mails or any means of instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of any offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of money or anything of value to any person, while knowing that all or a portion of such money or thing of value will be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the foreign official in his or her official capacity, induce the foreign official to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty, or to secure any improper advantage in order to assist in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.

Human Trafficking: Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States. It is estimated that human trafficking generates many billions of dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime. To report staff of the United Nations either involved in human trafficking or facilitating human trafficking, contact 1-866-347-2423.

Influence Operations: China’s Influence Operations Are Pinpointing America’s Weaknesses (Foreign Policy, October 4, 2018)

Money Laundering: The crime of moving money that has been obtained illegally through banks and other businesses to make it seem as if the money has been obtained legally.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The Division for Sustainable Development Goals (DSDG) seeks to provide leadership and catalyse action in promoting and coordinating implementation of internationally agreed development goals, including the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UN: The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945.  It is currently made up of 193 Member States.  The mission and work of the United Nations are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.

UNDP: United Nations Development Programme. On the ground in about 170 countries and territories, UNDP works to eradicate poverty while protecting the planet.

UN Global Compact: A call to companies to align strategies and operations with universal principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and take actions that advance societal goals.

UN General Assembly: The General Assembly is one of the six main organs of the United Nations, the only one in which all Member States have equal representation: one nation, one vote. All 193 Member States of the United Nations are represented in this unique forum to discuss and work together on a wide array of international issues covered by the UN Charter, such as development, peace and security, international law, etc.

UNOSSC: United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (formerly the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation). The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) is a knowledge hub providing advisory and consulting services to all stakeholders on South-South and triangular cooperation. It enables developing countries to effectively face their development challenges and harness opportunities to address them.

Note: This blog post provides a summary of the unfolding corruption case that targeted the United Nations from 2010 and was revealed in 2015 by US authorities. It is offered as a resource for those interested in the role played by corruption in international development and international institutions, or who are interested in case law and the application of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. If anything, the case stands as a brazen act of criminality and corruption, and, with South-South News still based out of the United Nations and still functioning as a news service, maybe proof the UN has a long way to go to walk the talk on fighting corruption.

In future blog posts we will explore what the ongoing trials have revealed about this case and the United Nations and what lessons can be learned.

Update and Summary as of February 2020 | ‘2015 United Nations Bribery Scandal’

“We will be asking: is bribery business as usual at the UN?”, US Attorney Preet Bharara, October 2015

In autumn 2015 arrests by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) in New York (home of the United Nations headquarters) unveiled a multinational, multi-year scheme to launder money into the US and bribe United Nations (UN) officials, in particular to support the building of a new UN “Geneva of Asia” in Macau, China for the GSSD Expo (Global South-South Development Expo), an annual gathering organised by the UNOSSC (United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation). 

“Corruption at any level of government undermines the rule of law and cannot be tolerated. But corruption is especially corrosive when it occurs at an international body like the United Nations. By paying bribes to two U.N. ambassadors to advance his interest in obtaining formal support for the Macau conference center project, Ng Lap Seng tried to manipulate the functions of the United Nations. The sentence handed down today demonstrates that those who engage in corruption will pay a heavy price and serves as a reminder that no one stands above the law.”, Acting Assistant General John P. Cronan, May 2018

Foreign Policy called the case one of “The Worst Corruption Scandals of 2015”. Read the US Justice Department Docket here: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/fcpa/cases/ng-lap-seng-and-jeff-c-yin.

The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York at the time, Preet Bharara, released a flowchart showing how the alleged bribery and money laundering scheme targeting the United Nations worked. A series of court trials followed (2015-2018) for the various co-conspirators, including senior executives and board members for South-South News (see below), culminating in the 27 July 2017 conviction of the ring leader of the scheme, Macau casino billionaire Ng Lap Seng, on six counts “for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo“. He used the news service South-South News as a “conduit for bribery and money laundering” at the United Nations, according to the FBI, something admitted to by various co-conspirators in court and under oath. On 11 May 2018 Ng Lap Seng was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

Two NGOs plus the office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) were used by the co-conspirators to perpetrate the scheme, according to court records and the Department of Justice (DOJ): 

1) South-South News: According to the United States Department of Justice, the executives of New York-based South-South News used the “21st century media platform dedicated to covering the stories of global development from the United Nations, governments, the private sector, and civil society” as a “conduit” for bribery and money laundering at the United Nations. South-South News executives were arrested in autumn 2015, along with former UN General Assembly President John Ashe (who was charged with “Filing False Income Tax Returns”). South-South News (which still exists) was founded in 2010 by Ng Lap Seng and Ambassador Francis Lorenzo with US $12 million. According to the FBI, Seng did this with the objective of bribing UN officials, laundering money into the United States – bringing US $4.5 million into the US in cash over a period of two years – and lobbying for the building of a new UN facility in Macau for the annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) – a “Geneva of Asia”. The new facility would cost US $3 billion and be built by Ng Lap Seng’s construction company.

“The Government identified two specific acts that the Ambassadors obtained from other UN officials: (1) a letter of support for the Macau Conference Center signed by Yiping Zhou (“Zhou”), the then-Director of UNOSSC (together with other letters of support signed by Zhou, the “UNOSSC Support Letters”);”

“At various points during the trial, the Government presented evidence that the Ambassadors used their influence over Zhou to obtain the UNOSSC Support Letters and the Pro Bono Agreement. (See, e.g., Tr. 665:4-676:23, 764:10-766:25, 1217:18-1227:16, 1314:11-1316:23, 1345:14-1350:25.) During closing arguments, the Government argued, among other things, that Ng paid bribes to obtain the UNOSSC Support Letters and the Pro Bono Agreement. (See, e.g., Tr. 3934:18-23.) At no point during trial did defense counsel object to the UNOSSC Support Letters or the Pro Bono Agreement or to the Government’s reliance on those documents as evidence of official acts, nor did defense counsel request an adjournment to attempt to call Zhou or anyone else affiliated with the UNOSSC to testify.” (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, v. NG LAP SENG, et al., United States District Court, S.D. New York. May 9, 2018.)

Executives of South-South News. Launched 2010.

2) Global Sustainability Foundation (GSDF): According to the United States Department of Justice, the executives of the Global Sustainability Foundation, whose mandate was “dedicated to supporting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”,  were arrested and charged “for paying more than $800,000 in bribes to John W. Ashe (“Ashe”), the late former Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda (“Antigua”) to the United Nations (“UN”) and 68th President of the UN General Assembly.  [Sheri] Yan pled guilty in January 2016, and was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick.” 

U.S. Attorney Bharara stated: “As she admitted in court at her guilty plea, Shiwei [Sheri] Yan bribed the President of the UN General Assembly with hundreds of thousands of dollars to further private business interests.  For her role in corrupting the United Nations, Yan will serve time in a federal prison.”

Sheri (Shiwei) Yan’s husband is Roger Uren, a former ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) employee. Australia is part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing alliance, along with the United States, the UK, Canada and New Zealand.  

UNGA President John Ashe said at the GSDF launch in 2014, “the Foundation is being launched at the ‘sunset of the MDGs era,’ and as the SDGs era approaches. He noted the difficulty in moving from eight goals and 18 targets as under the MDGs, to the 17 goals and 169 proposed for the SDGs, and said this is where the GSDF has an important role to play.”

Executives of the Global Sustainable Development Foundation (GSDF). Launched 2014 (one year before the UN’s launch of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, of which UNGA President John Ashe was a key negotiator).

3) Office of the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA): One of the co-conspirators in the scheme was former UN General Assembly President John Ashe. He died due to a weightlifting accident before he had to testify in a New York court room. According to Farrukh Khan, Program Manager on Climate Finance at the UN Secretary-General’s Office, Ashe played a key role in the negotiations for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

John Ashe, UNGA 68 President and SDGs negotiator. Ashe died in 2016.

https://www.riob.org/fr/file/273754/download?token=nZIUIgRD

South-South News Executives, Co-conspirators and Charges

Ng Lap Seng, Macau casino owner and founder and funder of South-South News: On 11 May 2018 Ng Lap Seng was sentenced to 4 years in prison for being the ring leader of an elaborate, multi-year, multinational scheme to bribe UN officials and launder money into the United States.

Francis Lorenzo, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN for the Dominican Republic and co-founder of South-South News: Bribery. Admitted to his role in the bribery scheme but was spared prison because of his cooperation in providing testimony. He was ordered to do community service and to pay US $243,965 in restitution. 

Julia Vivi (Vivian) Wang, Vice President of South-South News: Money laundering (https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/file/1061036/download). She pleaded guilty to the charges on 4 April 2018.  

Jeff Yin, aide to Ng Lap Seng. On 28 February 2018 Jeff Yin received a seven-month prison sentence related to the corruption scandal.

Global Sustainability Foundation (GSDF) Executives and Charges

Shiwei (Sheri) Yan, Founder, Vice Chair and CEO for the Global Sustainability Foundation (GSF) (http://sdg.iisd.org/news/global-sustainable-development-foundation-launched-at-un/), whose purpose was “dedicated to supporting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”: Conspiracy to Commit Bribery. Sentenced to 20 months in prison. 

Heidi Hong Park (Piao), Finance Director for the GSF: Conspiracy to Commit Bribery.

John Ashe, President of UNGA 68 and Honorary Chairman of GSDF: Filing False Income Tax Returns.

The SDG Knowledge Hub posted an “Editor’s Note” in 2018 stating “In October 2015, Sheri Yan, John Ashe and several other individuals were charged in connection with a multi-year scheme to pay bribes to Ashe. The payments were delivered in part in relation to Ashe’s role as Honorary Chairman of GSDF. In July 2016, Sheri Yan was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 20 months in prison for paying more than $800,000 in bribes to Ashe. Ashe died before he was sentenced in the case.”

President of the UN General Assembly and Charges

John W. Ashe, President of UN General Assembly: Filing False Income Tax Returns

Macau: World Centre for Money Laundering, Sex Trafficking (Sources: UNODC and US Department of State)

According to the UNODC’s (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) Regional Representative Jeremy Douglas, “Macau has for a long time been seen as a place to launder money and for organized crime to do business, and while times and methods have changed it still [is] unfortunately seen this way by many,” he told Macau Business. 

The money comes from drugs, counterfeit goods and medicines, people-smuggling, trafficking of wildlife and timber, and sex trafficking. 

According to the United States Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2019, Macau is a centre for sex trafficking.

Ng Lap Seng’s Sun Kian Ip Group was barred from the UN’s Global Compact, according to The Wall Street Journal, and Seng was flagged up as a person not to do business with, including by Interpol, “The International Criminal Police Organization”. Despite this track record and multiple warning signs, both South-South News and the United Nations took money from Ng Lap Seng.

Ng Lap Seng, in a 2010 assessment by International Risk Ltd., was found to be “characterized in the media as a ‘Macau Crime Lord’ and kingpin of the international slave prostitution trade”.  He is associated with the Wo On Lok triad (a triad believed by police to be heavily involved in global sex trafficking) (https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB888439204883313500).

Globalization in Mongolia: Cultural Evidence from the UB Post by Mei-hua Lan found Mongolia’s UB Post newspaper had numerous reports on the trafficking of women to work as prostitutes in Macau’s casinos, including against their will. Why senior UN officials Yiping Zhou, Inyang Ebong-Harstrup and Adam Rogers would be so interested in collaborating with a known sex trafficker has never been publicly disclosed by the United Nations. It does, however, seem to clash with the UN’s overall mandate and stated policies.

UNOSSC

In 2015 the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) was headed by Director Yiping Zhou and Deputy Director Inyang Ebong-Harstrup. In 2016 an audit conducted by UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI) found it “unsatisfactory” – the lowest rating – “A rating of ‘unsatisfactory’ means that the assessed governance arrangements, risk management practices and controls were either not adequately established or not functioning well. Issues identified by the audit could seriously compromise the achievement of the objectives of the audited entity/area.” (https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2016/05/05/statement-concerning-the-united-nations-office-for-south-south-cooperation.html). 

In March 2015 UNOSSC Director Yiping Zhou signed a cooperation agreement with the Sun Kian Ip Group of Macau to “set up a multi-partner trust fund to promote the cause of South-South Cooperation” (https://usanewsonline.com/2015/03/07/south-south-cooperation-and-chinese-sun-kian-ip-group-signs-cooperation-agreement/). In April 2015 UNOSSC Deputy Director Inyang Ebong-Harstrup met with the Chairman of the Sun Kian Ip Group, Ng Lap Seng, in Macau (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-n-team-had-cleared-group-at-center-of-bribery-case-1444432560).

“South-South staff found him to be ‘humble, very happy to host a meeting and become closer to the U.N.,’ said Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, deputy director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, a division of the U.N., who met Mr. Ng in August when she traveled to Macau.” The Wall Street Journal;(9 October 2015)

More on the Strange Saga of South-South News here: http://www.davidsouthconsulting.com/blog/2018/3/4/the-strange-saga-of-south-south-news-may-2018.html

The complexities of UN-associated media outlets receiving funding from wealthy benefactors is not isolated to South-South News. Is it okay to use UN themed or associated news services to launder money into the United States and/or to donate illegally obtained funds from the countries of the global South? Whilst US authorities do not think so (thus the many court cases and prosecutions), the UN itself has not been leading on exposing these activities. In fact, the UN continues to pump out messaging on anti-corruption and ethics in development when these activities are both unethical and illegal and occuring in its name and on its premises. 

2014

PRESS RELEASE: IRIN humanitarian news service to spin off from the UN. IRIN humanitarian news service to spin off from the UN. Jynwel Foundation invests $25 million to create global non-profit media venture

2015

February

New York Times: TOWERS OF SECRECY: Jho Low, Well Connected in Malaysia, Has an Appetite for New York

2016

Devex: Will the development community face fallout from Malaysia’s 1MDB corruption scandal?

“Late in 2014, just over a month before its financial relationship with the United Nations was set to expire, the humanitarian news agency IRIN found a new benefactor.

The Hong Kong-based Jynwel Charitable Foundation seemed to appear out of thin air. It did so in the form of its founder and director, Jho Taek Low, a young Malaysian financier and member of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s inner circle. Low joined U.N. officials and IRIN’s management team at a U.N. press conference to announce a gift that would secure IRIN’s future: $25 million from Jynwel to the news agency, to be delivered to IRIN over 15 years. The donation allowed the well-regarded news outlet, whose future had been in doubt, to spin off from the U.N. and relaunch as an independent, nonprofit organization.

Known for hosting lavish parties, buying luxury real estate and collecting expensive works of art, Low, through the Jynwel Charitable Foundation, has reoriented his public image around global development’s social calendar and attracted attention as an emerging-market donor and partner to high-profile development groups.

Low’s foundation sponsored the Social Good Summit in 2014 and 2015 and has given away millions of dollars, including to the United Nations Foundation, Panthera — which works to save big cats — and Keep A Child Alive, the AIDS-fighting organization co-founded by pop star Alicia Keys.”

July

The Tibet Express: US claims China bribes UN news outlet for positive stories

“DHARAMSALA, July 8: United States has raised suspicion over China’s alleged involvement in bribing a news outlet focused on United Nations to push positive stories about China.

Chinese officials were involved in developing South-South News, a New York-based English language media outfit focused on the U.N. and development issues, according to court papers filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, reports Reuters.com July 7.

Prosecutors have claimed Macau billionaire real estate developer Ng Lap Seng, the founder of South-South News has funneled a portion of $500,000 in bribes he paid to former U.N. General Assembly President John Ashe, the report adds.”

2020

April

Bloomberg: U.S. Returns $300 Million Jho Low-Linked Funds to Malaysia

“The U.S. returned to Malaysia another $300 million that was recovered as part of the Justice Department’s forfeiture lawsuits targeting assets that fugitive financier Low Taek Jho and his associates bought with funds allegedly stolen from the country’s 1MDB investment fund.

With the latest repatriation, the U.S. has sent $600 million back to Malaysia as part of the continuing effort to seize and liquidate the assets, including real estate, business investments, art work and jewelry, that Low, commonly known as Jho Low, his family and his cronies acquired with the money they are accused of siphoning from the state fund after it was set up in 2009.”

September

Axios: China’s influence agents lawyer up

“People suspected of acting as foreign agents have sought the assistance of U.S. lawyers — and in some cases, the same lawyer who has represented top Trump administration officials during the course of the Russian inquiry.

The big picture: The phenomenon underscores the web of lobbying, money and court cases that have resulted from the Chinese government’s efforts to influence U.S. decision-making.

Context: The U.S. government has been pursuing more investigations into Chinese government-directed operations to influence politics and institutions. 

Driving the news: Hawaii-based consultant Nickie Mali Lum Davis recently pleaded guilty to illegally lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of the Chinese government.

Background: There’s a bit of family history here. Lum Davis’s parents, Gene and Nora Lum, pleaded guilty in 1997 to an illegal campaign fundraising scheme that benefited Democrats.

  • A 1998 Senate report identified a Macao billionaire named Ng Lap Seng as the source of hundreds of thousands of dollars that were illegally channeled to the Democratic National Convention as part of the same scandal. U.S. officials suspected at the time that Ng had “high-level” Chinese government connections and was “protected.”
  • In 2017, Ng was convicted in connection with a bribery and influence case at the United Nations. U.S. officials suspected that Ng’s main contact with Chinese intelligence was through a Chinese national named Qin Fei.

Abbe Lowell, a high-powered lawyer known for representing Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump during the Russia inquiry, represented both Lum Davis in her recent case and also Qin Fei amid the UN bribery investigation.”

What is the FCPA? “The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1, et seq. (“FCPA”), was enacted for the purpose of making it unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Specifically, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA prohibit the willful use of the mails or any means of instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of any offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of money or anything of value to any person, while knowing that all or a portion of such money or thing of value will be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the foreign official in his or her official capacity, induce the foreign official to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty, or to secure any improper advantage in order to assist in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.”

The Docket

Navigating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: The Increasing Cost of Overseas Bribery

“… corrupt payments to officers and employees of public international organizations are prohibited by the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. Public international organizations covered by the FCPA include, among others: the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development,Inter-American Development Bank,International Maritime Organizations, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Finance Corporation, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Organization,Organization for African Unity,and the Organization of American States.” (Navigating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: The Increasing Cost of Overseas Bribery by Robert C. Blume and J. Taylor McConkie)

FCPA Professor: Bribery Involving The United Nations (December 28, 2017)

“The United Nations has a number of anti-corruption initiatives. For starters, there is the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, it hosts the Conference of the States Parties (COSP) (the main policy-making body of the Convention), and the U.N.’s Global Compact states that “businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.”

Instead of looking outward, perhaps the United Nations should look more inward as several Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions … have involved U.N. officials or U.N. programs.”

JDSupra: Court to World: Yes, FCPA Is Still Sweeping

“Compliance officers may have seen news of a recent federal appeals court decision that upheld an expansive view of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement

One said the ruling might be “the tip of the iceberg” that heralds more individuals challenging FCPA enforcement. 

We rarely get appellate court rulings on the scope of the FCPA, so the case spurred numerous headlines. One said the ruling might be “the tip of the iceberg” that heralds more individuals challenging FCPA enforcement. 

For corporate compliance officers running entire programs, however, the case is just more of the same blizzard you’ve been enduring for years – trying to find a steady path forward. 

The case itself, U.S. v. Ng Lap Seng, is straightforward. A Chinese national, David Ng, was a wealthy real estate developer in Macau. In the early 2010s he bribed two United Nations officials by giving them sham consulting contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, in exchange for them trying to convince other U.N. officials to declare one of Ng’s convention centers the permanent home for a lucrative annual development conference. 

Eventually the scheme unraveled, and in 2017 a jury convicted Ng in federal district court of violating the FCPA. 

Ng appealed. He argued that any bribery prosecution must meet the high standards of an “official act” as spelled out in McDonnell v. U.S. — a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 2016 that addresses cases of domestic bribery of U.S. government officials. Ng wanted that same standard to apply to FCPA cases involving bribery of foreign government officials.

Um, no. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Ng on Aug. 9, noting that the text of the FCPA defines the quid pro quo of bribery much more expansively than other parts of U.S. law that address domestic bribery. Therefore, the narrow standards of McDonnell don’t apply for FCPA prosecution.”

How to Report Corruption and Bribery at UNDP (United Nations Development Programme)

The Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) “provides UNDP with effective independent and objective internal oversight that is designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of UNDP’s operations in achieving its development goals and objectives through the provision of internal audit and related advisory services, and investigation services.”  

They can be directly emailed here: reportmisconduct@undp.org

Key words: Money laundering, #bribery, #FCPA, #trafficking, #SDGs, #southsouthnews

© David South Consulting 2018

Explore what this bribery and money laundering network means for global order and the hegemony of the post-WWII American international settlement (Bretton Woods institutions etc.) here: ‘Jacked! | The Taking of the American Order

A selection of books covering the bribery and money laundering network targeting the United Nations from 2010 to 2015:  From Baksheesh to Bribery: Understanding the Global Fight Against Corruption and Graft Edited by T. Markus Funk and Andrew S. Boutros, Oxford University Press, 30 May 2019, Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping by Roger Faligot, Hurst, 2019, Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence by I. C. SmithNigel West, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 5 February 2021, ONU: la grande imposture by Pauline Liétar, Albin Michel, 4 October 2017, Organized Crime and Corruption Across Borders: Exploring the Belt and Road Initiative Edited ByT. Wing Lo,Dina SiegelSharon Kwok, Routledge, 1 April 2021.
Books covering the 2015 United Nations SDGs bribery scandal: ONU: La Grande Imposture, Organized Crime and Corruption Across Borders, New Humanitarianism and the Crisis of Charity: Good Intensions on the Road to Help, Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence.
Journalists and scholars alike have probed deep into the criminogenic networks across the global South. Crime and Development in the Global South by Jarrett Blaustein, Graham Ellison, Nathan Pino, The Palgrave Handbook of Criminology and the Global South, January 2018, Criminology and the UN Sustainable Development Goals: The Need for Support and Critique by Jarrett Blaustein, Nathan W Pino, Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Rob White, The British Journal of Criminology, Volume 58, Issue 4, July 2018,
Corruption in the Global Era: Causes, Sources and Forms of Manifestation edited by Lorenzo Pasculli and Nicholas Ryder, Taylor & Francis, 2019, Who Blunders and How: The Dumb Side of the Corporate World by Robin Banerjee, Sage Publications, 2019,
Wilful Blindness: How a Network of Narcos, Tycoons and CCP Agents Infiltrated the West by Sam Cooper, Optimum Publishing International, May 2021.
Executives of the UNOSSC audited by UNDP in 2016: Yiping Zhou, Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, Adam Rogers.