Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Inner City Press Asks Ban's Spox If Other Panama Papers Firms in Global Compact, Files in Street
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 19 -- As the UN bribery scandal gathered force Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an audit by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services. The audit, completed early this year but first put online by Inner City Press, directly criticizes Cristina Gallach, the Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, including for her lack of due diligence and for dealings with South South News.
Gallach, without recusing herself, unilaterally deactivated Inner City Press UN residential correspondents pass on February 19, and had Inner City Press' reporter physically thrown out on First Avenue without coat or passport. Audio here.
This is called retaliation. Then, after misrepresenting the restrictions she has put on the Press, she ordered the final eviction of all of Inner City Press' investigative files on Saturday, April 16 - video here and here (Periscope).
(On April 18, while even with its BAN and Gallach-reduced accreditation Inner City Press is supposed to be able to enter the UN until 7 pm, the UN Guard on duty at the 46th Street entrance said no, only until 6 pm. Lawless. On April 19, Inner City Press was BANned from covering Kerry and Zarif.)
Now, the South South News scandal connects with the so-called Panama Papers, about which Inner City Press twice asked the UN last week. Ng Lap Seng, who controlled the groups which were not reviewed by Gallach and got face time with Ban Ki-moon. On April 19, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric,UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you this, about the Panama Paper, the issue that came up yesterday of South-South News, in fact, being a British Virgin Islands corporation that appears in the Panama Papers, the President of the General Assembly had said actually yesterday that all organizations, presumably including the UN, should review things in light of the Panama Papers and tax evasions. So, my question to you is, are there other entities that have joined and are currently members of the Global Compact which appear in the now public database of the Panama Papers as shell companies?
Spokesman: I think… I can't answer that. I think that's a question you need to raise directly with the Global Compact.
Inner City Press: Can they come? Can they come here?
Spokesman: I think you could call them. Thank you.
On April 18, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: Questions on Western Sahara and South Sudan. But given how little time we have, I want to be sure to ask you this question, particularly now that my files were moved out onto First Avenue on Saturday. My question is as follows: My question is, as… in the UN OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) audit and in the whole discussion since the indictments in October, it’s been said that this is an audit of NGOs (non-governmental organizations), South-South News… didn’t actually… Global Sustainability Foundation, Sun Kian Ip foundation. And as you… I would trust that you know, in the Panama Papers, McClatchy has reported that, in fact, Ng Lap Seng’s South-South News was, in fact, a for-profit entity incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven. And so, one, how can it be that a UN audit into this doesn’t… didn’t reflect on this? What does it change in terms of it being… there was a press conference here in which civil society said there’s been a corporate, you know, invasion of the UN, and I would say… tie it to the Ban Ki-moon era.
Spokesman: What’s the question?
Inner City Press: My question is, now that it’s clear from the Panama Papers, a major global scandal, that Ng Lap Seng, who paid bribes to get into the UN, in fact, used offshore corporations to do it…
Spokesman: What is the question?
Inner City Press: The question is, isn’t this audit a little more than a cover-up, in that it doesn’t… [inaudible]
Question: How can UN auditors not find [inaudible]…
Spokesman: There is a criminal investigation going on, which, as we said, we would work with and cooperate with whatever… and, obviously, look at the requests from the US Federal authorities. As I mentioned, the audit is a first step. Other investigations are going on. And South-South News’s status is being reviewed here. I will say, for the record, that your files were not moved out on First Avenue. From what I gather and from watching the live broadcast over the weekend, you refused to provide an address for them to be shipped.
Question: Because I don’t trust them.
Spokesman: Well, that’s… but that’s your choice.
Question: Why would I? Would you?
Spokesman: That’s your choice. I don’t want you to portray that they’ve been moved or thrown out.
Question: They were thrown out onto First Avenue. Ban Ki-moon…
Spokesman: I’ll come back to you.
"Ng is listed as a shareholder of two British Virgin Islands companies – South South News International Group Ltd in May 2010 and GOLUCK Ltd. in 2004.
He leads a real estate development company in Macau, China, and is one of the world’s wealthiest people. He was accused in 1996 of sending more than $1.1 million to a Little Rock restaurant owner who then contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic National Committee, according to a 1998 Senate committee investigation.
The restaurant owner, Charlie Trie, pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws. Ng was not charged. Another congressional report criticized Ng and others for failing to cooperate during the investigation.
Published reports say Ng visited the White House 10 times from 1994 to 1996, had his photograph taken with Bill and Hillary Clinton, sat beside Bill Clinton at an event at a Washington hotel, and rode in an elevator with Hillary Clinton.
Last year, Ng was charged with bribing a United Nations official and lying about what he was doing with $4.5 million in cash he brought into the U.S. over two years. Investigators say instead of spending it at casinos or on art, antiques or real estate, he used the money for bribes as he sought investments in Antigua and China. Another man listed in the same criminal complaint is president of the New York-based South South News, the same name of the British Virgin Islands company.
Ng’s lawyer, Kevin Tung, has said that his charges are based on a misunderstanding. Tung, Benjamin Brafman and Hugh Mo, two others who are or have represented Ng, did not respond to requests for comment."
Any due diligence by Gallach, prior to allowing the Vistors Lobby event and slavery memorial foundation, would have revealed these disqualifiers.
Furthermore, this shows the weakness of OIOS' audit. OIOS refers to South South News as an "NGO." The UN has a relationship with this BVI for-profit corporation, then absolves itself about dealings with Ng Lap Seng, while Ban's and Gallach's response is to throw the Press in the street.
On April 15, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq how much Gallach allowed the corruption Global Sustainability Foundation to put into the slavery event Ban Ki-moon attended, and about the Government Accountability Projects letter to Ban Ki-moon charging him with retaliation. Video here.