Thursday, March 24, 2016
Inner City Press Exposed Glogal Sustainability Foundation Funding of UN Slavery Memorial, Now Banned From Covering
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 24 -- The UN's expanding corruption scandals clouded even the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, given that indictee (now bribery guilty-plea) Sheri Yan's Global Sustainability Foundation paid at least $60,000 for the UN's slavery memorial.
So now that DPI- and UNCA-funder South South News' Frank Lorenzo has pleaded guilty to bribery charges, and Vivian Wang has been indicted, Inner City Press wanted on March 24 to stakeout and cover an event on "The Transatlantic Slave Trade, organized by the UN Remember Slavery Program, in collaboration with the Department of Public Information" - including in continued covering of the expanding UN corruption scandal's link to DPI and, yes, the UN Correspondents Association.
But the event was in the ECOSOC chamber, and Inner City Ppress' downgraded non-resident correspondent pass does not allow it through the turnstile on the second floor to access ECOSOC. The glass door to the Security Council, since it was between meetings, was locked.
Inner City Press, whose accreditation was cut and office seized for trying to cover UN corruption, is now Banned from such coverage, from stakeout on this event. Combined with the exposure that there is no rule on use of interpreters booths, the accreditation cut mut be reversed and the work space returned.
On the slavery connection to corruption in the UN and DPI, Inner City Press on December 2 asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:
Inner City Press: today is the International Day of Remembrance of the end of transatlantic slavery. So, I wanted to ask, there's the Global Sustainability Foundation, one of the two entities, I guess, are being subject to some kind of a review by OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services]. They contribute… I found the document. They contributed $60,000 to the memorial that's out in front of the GA [General Assembly]. I wondered, one, do you have… in terms of the… given that the founder of the organization has been indicted for bribe… use of that organization for bribery, do you have any comment on that? And what's the status of the OIOS review of the two organizations' interactions with the UN? And, is Mr. [Edmond] Mulet the head of the task force?
Spokesman: That is still ongoing. The work that was being done by the Chef de Cabinet's office will continue by… with the Chef de Cabinet… with the new Chef de Cabinet, Mr. Mulet, who was sworn in today.
Inner City Press: Is there a deadline for the OIOS review, given the… I mean, there was a lot of heat around the issue and…?
Spokesman: Not that I'm aware of. Obviously, they're trying to do this as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Inner City Press: And when they finish, will we know or… from you?
Spokesman: I hope to know, because I would like to know.
But will Ban Ki-moon, canceling the December 3 noon briefing to take question at the stakeout, accept a question about this UN scandal?
Back on October 20 as the scandal unveiled in the corruption chargesagainst former UN General Assembly President John Ashe, Ng Lap Seng, Francis Lorenzo of South South News and others continues to expand, the compromised position of the UN Correspondents Association has come to the fore.
In 2011 until now, Inner City Press has exposed UNCA for taking funds from Ng Lap Seng vehicles, to which it gave awards, and arranging Ng Lap Seng photo op(s) with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UNCA has not provided any explanation; the UN through Ban's spokesman has said for example that many people get photographs with Ban. But people like Ng previously found in US Senate reports to have made irregular campaign contributions, and co-owning hotels links to prostitution?
On October 20, Inner City Press asked UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq about Ng, and about how much money the Global Sustainability Foundation gave for the UN's “Ark of Return” (anti) slavery memorial. Haq wouldn't give the dollar figure - it's at least $60,000 -- and seemed to says it doesn't matter where the UN takes money from, only how the UN uses it. Video here. From the UN's October 20 transcript:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask one question about Global Sustainability Foundation, one about Mr. Ng Lap Seng. Seems that the Global Sustainability Foundation held a luncheon for and raised funds for this Arc of Return, it's a monument to the recollection of transatlantic slavery. And I wanted to know, one, I mean, pending… this just seems it's a fact, it's on their website they basically present themself as a major sponsor of the monument, which isn't really my understanding, but can you find out without, it's not an audit. It's just a financial question. Did they, in fact, give money to it, and why did they sponsor the luncheon for it? What was their, in what capacity did they do that?
Deputy Spokesman: Again, this is one of the topics for which we expect any relevant information will come out through the audit, so we would await that…
Inner City press: Can't you answer just a simple financial question…
Deputy Spokesman: No, I'm not going…
Inner City Press: This is a monument for which the Secretary-General raised funds…
Deputy Spokesman: I'm not going…
Inner City Press: …how much did they give?
Deputy Spokesman: I'm not going to do the work that the auditors are doing. We're waiting for the auditors to go about their work, and we'll see what they have to say. If there's any additional avenues we need to pursue after that, we can do that at that point.
Inner City Press: Okay. I want to ask you another question. Mr. Ng Lap Seng, who's now out on $50 million bail, it seemed he sort of penetrated the UN system, including several photo ops with Ban Ki-moon against a blue background in Cipriani's, I wanted to ask you, a major financial newspaper, just on cursory research, said he's a co-owner of the Fortuna Hotel, which has… quote, this is all from their promotional material, table dancing by strippers, boasted attractive and attentive hostesses from China, Singapore and Korea, and erotic girls from Europe and Russia. And I wanted to know, given, given everything that's said from this podium about UN Women and the need to take these issues seriously, how is it possible… how is it possible that this, an individual engaged in these activities, came… came to such a position of prominence and, and, and closeness to the Secretary-General?
Deputy Spokesman: Matthew, we do not speak for David Ng Lap Seng or his group or his business holdings. Any questions on that have to go to his organizations. The United Nations does not deal with any of the, of the entities, with entities like the ones that you've described.
Inner City Press: The money from it was donated to various UN causes. That’s why I'm asking you to respond to this pending, this unending audit, what do you think of this?
Deputy Spokesman: The nature of corporations is that any corporation can have many, many different holdings. I'm not going to comment on all of the holdings of different groups, depending upon what they do with the UN. What we're trying to monitor is how the funds from these groups affected the UN and the dealings with the two entities that we've been talking about. That's being audited, and we'll follow up on that. But the group's activities as a whole, that's an issue for other authorities. It's not…
It's not an issue for the United Nations…
Inner City Press: I understand what the audit is…
Deputy Spokesman: It has nothing, it actually has no actual relevance to the work we've done.
Question: It's just how the money is spent by the UN, not where the money came from?
Deputy Spokesman: The audit is designed to follow up on what effect, what impact, the activities the groups and of the monies that they spent have and that's what we're following up on...
Inner City Press: Is it, are you, is the Secretariat yet viewing the… Secretariat viewing the charges of the Southern District of New York as mostly or entirely related to the PGA [President of the General Assembly]? I guess I'm asking this because things like South-South News... Yesterday, I'd asked Stéphane at the founding of the Global Sustainability Foundation, there was Mr. Nambiar. There was the spouse of the Secretary-General. There was not Mr. Ashe anywhere to be seen. So I just want to be clear. Is this an audit about two… merely two entities, but as relates to the UN Secretariat or just to the PGA's office?
Deputy Spokesman: No, no, it's as we have, it's as we described in the statement before. It's about the UN as a whole.
Background: Ng Lap Seng was found to have brought the same bags of cash later deployed at the UN into the US earlier, in the late 90s, when his Fortuna hotel was linked to organized crime and even human trafficking. From the WSJ:
“Who is Ng Lap Seng, and what did he want? According to several well-informed sources in Hong Kong and Macau, Mr. Ng is a mysterious figure with extensive business in China, where he also held a minor post as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in his hometown of Nan Hai in Guangdong province. In Macau, his most visible interest is his ownership of the Fortuna Hotel, a garish high-rise in the gambling district, featuring a 20,000-square-foot nightclub with 'table dancing' by strippers, as well as a massage parlor and, according to its brochure, 'over 30 independent karaoke rooms, all luxuriously decorated with the most advanced sound system for any one interested in performing his favorite songs.' The brochure also boasts 'attractive and attentive hostesses from China, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Burma together with erotic girls from Europe and Russia, certainly offer you an exciting and unforgettable evening with friends or business associates.'”
So what does UN Women, which has still to comment on UN Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous linking rapes to “R&R,” same about Ban's UN (through UNCA) accepting “pimp and trafficker” Ng Lap Seng into the UN, and into UNCA's Cipriani ball for photos with Ban and his spouse? We'll have more on this.
Just as UNCA "leaders" from Voice of America and Reuters(censorship bid here) tried to use the UN to get the investigative Press out, now the UN responds to questions about UNCA selling Secretary General Ban Ki-moon photo ops to Ng Lap Seng by suggesting that the questioner, because present, "condoned" the sale.
Now, with UNCA still silent on its links with South South News and other Ng Lap Seng vehicles, here is video Inner City Press published in December 2011 of UNCA's murky photo ops for Ban at Cipriani, which UNCA seeks to reproduce this coming December.
Even then in December 2011, Inner City Press' accompanying story reported that it
"filmed what it could of the photo op -- those arranging it kept telling the Press it had to leave -- and afterward several in Ban's circle said they had no idea who the businessmen had been. There was dark talk about one David Ng, a businessman who has bankrolled 'vanity' media projects given awards that night -- people funded by Ng used the word "vanity," so we use it here."
Inner City Press published that in December 2011 about Ng and South South News; it quit UNCA and with another Executive Committee member who quit in disgust co-founded FUNCA, the Free UN Coalition for Access. UNCA continued taking funds from South South News. We'll have more on this.
While UNCA does not represent all journalists accredited to cover the UN -- Inner City Press for example quit the group in 2012 with another Executive Committee member and co-founded the new Free UN Coalition for Access -- the UN gives it a privileged position, a large clubhouse on the third floor of the UN and, automatically, the first question at press conferences.
But is that appropriate, given that UNCA received money from South South News, “NGO 1” in the filing against Ashe? Not only did UNCA receive money from South South News: it gave the group an “UNCA award” at a ceremony at the high-ceilinged Cipriani's restaurant on December 15, 2011.
Inner City Press, which did not quit UNCA in fully ripened disgust in 2012, was present in December 2011 and witnessed, when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon came into Cipriani's, him being shepherded into a side room for photographs with Asian men in business suits who Inner City Press did not then recognize -- but now does.
UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, when Inner City Press asked on October 13 about what it had seen, said perhaps Inner City Press had "condoned" it. Video here. But Inner City Press quit UNCA after finding conflicts of interest in it, and being "ordered" to not report on this. From the October 13 transcript:
Inner City Press: I want to ask inevitably about the revelations about Mr. [John] Ashe and Frank Lorenzo and others. And just as you… as the lead Spokesman, a person that travels around with the Secretary-General, how… what would you say to the photos that exist of the Secretary-General with David Ng, who was since indicted, and Frank Lorenzo and, particularly, in instances where it appears that groups that receive contributions from the two and then put them in a room to have photographs with the Secretary-General? Is this something that… how does the Secretary-General view this in retrospect, and what's going to be done in the future?
Spokesman: First of all, a photo of the Secretary-General with any individual should in no way be interpreted as a sponsorship or agreement. It's just a photo. The Secretary-General is very much a public figure, attends a lot of public events where there are a lot of people. Sometimes people come up to him and ask to have their photo taken. And it's done within the… within, obviously, the security constraints that need to be had. I think whether it's the Secretary-General of the United Nations or anyone in leadership position, you will find when you travel with them that a lot of people want to have their photo taken with them. Inasmuch as that is… we try to control that, sometimes it's difficult to do so. I think the Secretary-General is as shocked as anyone in this building at the charges that were levelled at these two individuals. And he's very disappointed at the accusations towards the United Nations.
Inner City Press: obviously, to business interests having an actual kind of formal handshaking one, I guess I'll just say that that is worth something to them. That's why they…
Spokesman: I'm not… I'm not debating that point… [cross talk] I'm just saying that having a picture of the Secretary-General with any individual should in no way be seen as a sponsorship, approval, making them BFF's or anything.
Inner City Press: I guess I just want to be more specific. If an event… and there's one that actually, as it turns out, I witnessed in Cipriani. If the Secretary-General enters a large space and is then taken to a smaller space for such photographs, what's the basis for that, as opposed to people with selfies? I mean, I understand what you're saying…
Spokesman: I think, you know, if you were there, then maybe you condoned the event as well. The issue is the Secretary-General attends a lot of events. Sometimes there is a VIP reception. None of it should be construed as anything as the Secretary-General having his picture taken with anyone.
Inner City Press: it's been a number of days now; I'm assuming that, if not you, OLA [Office of Legal Affairs], someone has read through this long FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] affidavit. And I want to just ask you again, because in it, it says that, after the… the… the official UN document about the Macau centre was procured, there was a separate payment to Mr. Ashe, separate communications with a UN official number one, who reissued the document as a… amended… revised for technical reasons, with the name of the company in it. And it seems to me, even before you waiting for an OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] investigation, the scope of which wouldn't touch that, who in the UN is actually… how does it work, first of all? Who… which part of the UN amends documents after they're released? Is it DGACM [Department for General Assembly and Conference Management]…?
Spokesman: Listen, I'm not going to talk about the specifics of the case. But it is clear that if the President of one of the legislative bodies in this Organization which controls the agenda, or a sponsoring country for resolution, asks the Secretary-General to amend a text, we serve as the Secretariat. It's not… it's… it doesn't entail sponsoring of what's inside that text.
While Inner City Press' answer to the spokesman's "if you were there, then maybe you condoned the event as well," is that Inner City Press quit UNCA
after finding conflicts of interest in it, and being "ordered" to not report on this, we'll have more on this.
On October 13, Inner City Press asked this follow up:
Inner City Press: I just want to directly ask you about the idea that it's sort of people struggling to get photos with the UN officials. There was a… there was a peacekeeping day concert that was… for which solicitation of… you know, sponsorship was sought by a group called World Harmony Alliance, and it had nothing… the group has nothing to do with peacekeeping, but they paid for day. They… they… in fact, the funder complained that he didn't get the promised photograph with Ban Ki-moon, but I wonder, what was… what's the UN's understanding when they take outside financial sponsorship for such a day? I mean, former UN official [Ibrahim] Gambari was seen with the same group taking photographs on the fourth floor in the Millennium Hotel. What's it all about? What’s happening?
Spokesman: What former officials do in hotels is really not of my purview.
Inner City Press: Sure. What about UN peacekeeping?
Spokesman: I would take a look at that actual programme, but I would expect every part of the UN to do due diligence when it partners with an outside organization. And just… I'll leave it at that.
On October 12, Inner City Press asked Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, video here, transcript here:
Inner City Press: in light of these charges against John Ashe, Frank Lorenzo, and others, it's emerging that the Secretary-General, if not met, had staged photo opportunities with a number of the individuals charged. And I wanted to know, in looking at this, do you have some kind of a comment on how these occurred, particularly in instances where they may have been arranged by a third party, been arranged by an organization that invited Ban Ki-moon and then received funds from South-South News or others and then put the two together on photograph? Was that appropriate? And what would be your response to… to OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] looking at that or otherwise?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, regarding that, as you're aware, the Office of Internal Oversight Services will do an audit. They've been requested to do that, and so we'll be able to see whether there was any effect from either the relationship with these various groups, these two groups, the Sun Kian Ip Group and the Global Sustainability Foundation, and any of the monies received. So, we'll await what they have to say about any of this.
Inner City Press: But, given that Mr. Frank Lorenzo has been charged and he's now out on $2 million bail, he was head of South-South News, which spread $12 million, according to the documents, throughout the UN system. So, what was, how, what was the criteria used to choose these two NGOs and not either South-South News or International Organization for South-South Cooperation or South South Steering Committee on Sustainable Development? It seems like it's a very limited inquiry and…
Deputy Spokesman: It's not really an inquiry. It's an audit, and this is initial step. If OIOS feels like there is something… there's a direction which they need to go as a result of these initial results, they're certainly free to do that, but we needed to get the ball rolling and have an initial step forward so that we can look into what exactly is the impact of the monies and the relationship with these groups.
John Ashe at UNCA with former president, after and before Pioli
click photo for source / credit
Back in December 2011, shepherding Ban for this (compensated) photo op with dubious businessmen was Giampaolo Pioli, then as now the president of UNCA. South South News interviewed Pioli that night, bragging of the UNCA award it got / paid for, screenshot from video here.
(For context it must be noted too that Pioli rented one of his Manhattan apartments to Palitha Kohona then granted Kohona's request as Sri Lanka's Ambassador to screen his government's war crimes denial film “Lies Agreed To” in the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium: this precipitated Inner City Press quitting UNCA, in full disclosure.)
How can UNCA be given first questions to ask about a scandal involving South South News, from which UNCA took more then to which it gave an award? And what are the other implications?
(In terms of Mr. Ng's desire for photo ops, Inner City Press is informed that he separately wanted a photo with US President Obama, and paid six figures to a middleman - who disappeared with the money. UNCA on the other hand, one wag noted, delivered Ban Ki-moon for photos at Cipriani's.)
UNCA, it should be noted, has been and is open to business interested beyond Mr. Ng and South South News. Another UNCA awards ceremony was sponsored by a company called “Acoona;” the Italian oil company ENI pays the group money.
But UNCA's South South News connection, given what has been disclosed and charged this week, should at a minimum and as a first step disqualify UNCA from first questions from the UN, and from the continuation of its role.
Consider: if it gave rise to criminal charges that South South News paid Ashe to get a GA document for Ng to show off in Macau, who about South South News paying UNCA, and UNCA delivering Ban for a photo op with Ng, that Ng could use for related purposes? We'll have more on this.
Wider, and going forward in this series, limiting UN investigation to OIOS - whose director of investigations Stefanovic has resigned, Inner City Press hereby exclusively reported on October 9 - looking at only two NGOs is laughable. The scandal is expanding: there is a pattern here, pattern and practice. Watch this site.