Tuesday, July 25, 2017

In UN Bribery Case Summations, US Takes UNDP At Face Value, Ng Praises South South Zhou

By Matthew Russell Lee, PhotoVideo

UNITED NATIONS, July 25 –In the UN bribery case of Ng Lap Seng on July 25 the government and defense traded summations, neither taking on the ongoing corruption of the UN. Prosecutor Janis Echenberg portrayed the UN as something of a victim of Ng Lap Seng, presenting at face value the claims of the UN Development Program's Simon Hannaford that the UN has standards. This is belied not only by UNDP's own history, but also the UN Task Force Report which admits that UN lacks common ethical standards. Since the UN refused to tell the US Attorney who it interviewed for the report, the US knows better. But it is focused only on Ng Lap Seng. 

Ng's lawyer Tai Park, on the other hand, staked his defense on discrediting government witness Francis Lorenzo, not difficult given his guilty plea and testimony. But Park presented the UN has a victim too, even Yiping Zhou who was so corrupt even the UN was glad how quickly he left after the indictment. This is why the UN is not reformed - this, and the UN's censorship of critical Press coverage, restrictions continued by “new” Secretary General Antonio Guterres. We'll have more on this. In the defense's summation in the UN bribery trial of Ng Lap Seng, along with a withering attack on the credibility of government witness Francis Lorenzo came more evidence of UN corruption. Lorenzo got assistance with Ng's $3 billion Macau convention center plan not only from Yiping Zhou and Ion Botnaru, both gone from the UN, but also Meena Sur, still at the UN. When Ng's wire transfers for Lorenzo to Terra Trading in the Dominican Republic were questioned, Lorenzo got El Salvador's then Permanent Representative Carlos Garcia to write "To Whom It May Concern" in support of the scheme. Inner City Press has asked about the group(s) Garcia continued to squire into the UN, long after Lorenzo was arrested. The UN remains corrupt; its response to coverage is to evict and censor, not to reform. On July 25 between the charging conference and summations, Inner City Press rushed up to the UN to the noon briefing and asked questions that were dodged, in Kafka-esque fashion. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: Today is the… the… the charge conference, and the issues that have come up involve whether Francis Lorenzo was an agent of the UN.  That’s why I guess I just want to ask you once again because it’s coming to a head down there.  You’ve said somehow to ask… maybe I misunderstood you when you said ask the President of the General Assembly how Mr. Lorenzo… about a UN email address.  I can’t really ask Mr. [John] Ashe… who should I ask?

Deputy Spokesman:  Ask… I mean, there’s an office of the President of the General Assembly…
Inner City Press:  I did.  They told me it’s DGACM (Department of General Assembly and Conference Management).  That’s why I’m asking you.

Deputy Spokesman:  I mean, it would have been a decision taken by the President of the General Assembly.  They’ll need to provide you details about that.
Inner City Press:  Was he an agent of the UN?  [inaudible] Given that he’s not a special adviser… he had a business card saying he’s a special adviser to the President of the Assembly, the General Assembly.

Deputy Spokesman:  He had no UN employment, certainly none that I’m aware of.  His employment was with his Mission. ...

NOTE: In court again on July 25 Lorenzo was depicted as employed by the UN, part ofa  UN Delegation to Macau, with Paulette Bethel and Frances Fuller. Is the UN covering up? It continued:
 Inner City Press:   I wanted to ask you… the… first of all, thank your office for saying that Frances Fuller had separated from service.  I wanted to ask you, going… introduced in the court is the attendance list of the Macau conference in August of 2015.  So I wanted to ask you, there… there… one… one… I believe he’s still a UN official, Mr. Navid Hanif, was in attendance.  And I wanted to know, is this something that the UN has ever asked in what capacity it took place?  I know that Mr. [Ian] Botnaru was there.  He’s no longer at the UN.  He was listed in attendance as an Ambassador of Moldova, which he wasn’t at the time.  What follow-through has been made by the UN regarding that conference and still high officials that were there?  Were they interviewed as to why they were there?  Why was he there?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t have any details to share about the ongoing court case.
Inner City Press:   It’s not about the court case.  I’m talking about the UN.

Deputy Spokesman:  It’s actually about information that’s coming up in the court case.  So I wouldn’t comment on it as the process is under way.  Yes, Masood? ...

Inner City Press: This will not be about the court case.  This will be about UN’s own task force report which was… which… which states there are no formal agreed common principles of ethical conduct for financial disclosure measures for the president and the personnel of his office.  And I wanted to know, in the months that António Guterres has been Secretary-General, can you list any reforms whatsoever made both of this portion of the task force report but also of the lapses and loopholes into the system shown by the John Ashe, Ng Lap Seng case?

Deputy Spokesman:  There are a series of reforms that the Secretary-General will be announcing, including management reforms and others.  You’ll know about those in due course.  Have a good afternoon, everyone.
  We'll have more on this. The prosecution earlier on July 25 showed photographs of the "UN delegation" to Macau in 2014, including John Ashe and his then-assistant Frances Fuller - and his chief of staff Paulette Bethel. Bethel was never charged by the US Attorney, and many wonder why. The prosecution presented Ion Botnaru and even Yiping Zhou of the UN Office of South South Cooperation as merely doing what "ambassadors" wanted - without asking what Zhou and Botnaru got out of it. Botnaru attended the August 2015 Macau meeting, while still a UN official, listed as Ambassador of Moldova. Also UNexplored: among the South South News consultants cut off along with Ashe's wife Anilla Cherian were another Moldova Permanent Representative to the UN, Alexandru Cujba and Bruce Niswander. Why weren't they interviewed or more? While the prosecution ended with slides of the six counts, from Section 666 and the FCPA including Antiguan and Dominican law, many questions about the UN's own corruption remain. Will they be answered or addressed in the defense's summation? The issue has arisen whether government witness Francis Lorenzo, who has pleaded guilty, was a "UN agent." On July 25 just before summations began in the case, Inner City Press rushed from the courthouse to the UN noon briefing and asked Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Farhan Haq if Lorenzo was a UN agent. Haq said he was only a diplomat of his country, the Dominican Republic. But why then did Lorenzo has a UN.org email address, and a business card listing him as a Special Adviser to the President of the General Assembly? Is the UN, in essence, trying to help Ng be found not guilty? We'll have more on this. Haq also refused to answer Inner City Press' question about still UN official Navid Harif's role in Ng's Macau event, saying that's in court - a dodge; Haq could not name a single reform implemented in Guterres' more than six months on these topics, saying only that proposals will be announced in "due course." When? Throughout the morning of July 26 Ng's lawyers raised objections to the 70-page charge sheet, citing the First Amendment - ironic since the UN has none - and the specifics of whether former President of the General Assembly John Ashe and Francis Lorenzo can or must be found to be agents of the UN. As to Lorenzo, the UN has refused to answer Inner City Press' question about Lorenzo's business card listing him, with a UN.org email address, as a Special Adviser to the President of the General Assembly. We'll have more on this - the summations scheduled to being at 11 am have been pushed back. The judge has said if deliberations go into next week, there may be only 11 jurors remaining. A record, as they say, is being built. Watch this site. On July 24 after re-direct examination about payments to and from Ng's South South News (the latter including to entities like the UN Correspondents Association), the defense presented a redacted copy of the UN Task Force Report and rested its case. With the record, other than summations and the 70-page charge, now closed it is time to review who, for example, attended Ng's and John Ashe's shadowy August 2015 event in Macau, in furtherance of the $3 billion UN conference center / casino plan. Significant, now the day before the UN Security Council meeting on Burundi where the UN said there's a risk of genocide then did nothing about it, there was the representative of Burundi's Pierre Nkurunziza, Albert Shingiro. On what basis did he attend? What is his and his government's comment on the corruption trial? There was then UN official Ion Botnaru, never held accountable. Tellingly, he was listed as attending as Ambassador of Moldova, a variation on the UN giving actual Dominican Republic Deputy Permanent Representative Francis Lorenzo a UN.org email address then telling Inner City Press to ask the dead John Ashe about it. There was current UN official Navid Hanif, also never held accountable. There was a vice president of the UN Correspondents Association, who even on July 24 retained a double-wide UN office next to the one the UN evicted Inner City Press from for covering the Ng scandal, and came down to ask canned questions for state media (like the Egyptian state media the UN is trying to give Inner City Press' office to). There was Bangladesh Ambassador Momen, who we are told was given a "heads-up" just before the indictments in October 2015 and left the US two days later. Who gave that heads-up? Why? These and other questions Inner City Press will continue on, still restricted 18 months later by the still corrupt UN. Watch this site. On July 24, Ng's defense lawyers read into the record quotes from the UN Task Force Report, for example that "the Task Force found that there are no formal, agreed common principles of ethical conduct or financial disclosure measures for the President and the personnel of the Office." Also that "The Task Force observed that there is a lack of common standards of conduct
expected of Presidents, specifically with regard to the manner in which they conduct themselves as President-elect and when carrying out their presidential functions during their term of office." Ng Lap Seng may be found not guilty on the grounds that the UN is this corrupt. A charge conference and summations are set for July 25; the charge is said to already be 70 pages in length. The UN refused to cooperate about its own Task Force Report, not saying who was interviewed; the bribery defendant used the UN's own works to argue that the UN has no common ethical standards. The U should be ashamed but won't even tell Inner City Press, there every day, if it has anyone monitoring the trial. On July 21 arguments began about "UN documents" that Ng's defense lawyers want to introduce into evidence. This followed the July 20 testimony of the one-time assistance of former President of the UN General Assembly Frances Fuller, of whom Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Farhan Haq in August 2016, here. On July 24, Inner City Press asked Haq again about Fuller, and how Francis Lorenzo got a UN.org email. UN transcript here: Inner City Press: Last week you said when I asked you why it was that in the Ng Lap Seng case, Francis Lorenzo who has plead guilty to the UN bribery had an UN email address and you said to ask the Office of the President of the General Assembly, so I did.  They cannot obviously answer it because it was two presidents ago.  But, they did say that the DGACM [Department of General Assembly and Conference Management], ICT [information and communication technology] focal point is the one that gives out UN email addresses, so I want to reiterate… they can't answer it so it seems like unless the DGACM have a separate spokesperson, can you get an answer from them if Mr. Francis Lorenzo had a UN email address?  And if so, why he did, given that he is not listed among the team, there is still a web page online showing that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding the why, that would be a question for the previous president of the General Assembly.  It's not a decision that was taken by us and it's not something I can speak to.  Regarding… you will have a question after this.  I also have the following statement attributable to the Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General on Pakistan.  The Secretary-General strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan, today and calls for those responsible to be brought to justice.  The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims and wishes full recovery to those injured.  He supports the efforts of the Government of Pakistan to fight terrorism and violent extremism, with full respect for international human rights norms and obligations.  Yeah?

Question:  Okay, because you say, John Ashe, may he rest in peace, has expired, but does DGACM, if the PGA [President of the General Assembly] today, after the scandal, after the indictments, were to ask… just provides names, would they automatically hand out these email addresses, or is there some standards within the Secretariat as to how to respond to such requests?

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding that, if someone is hired on as an adviser, you know, in the UN, they are entitled to a UN email address, so they would process that.  I believe that someone has to vouch for the credentials of who are the staff who have entitlement to a UN email address.

Question:  But, who does the vouching, the PGA's office or the Secretariat?  Because he was never pictured on that, essentially an unlisted…

Deputy Spokesman:  That would have to be a decision taken by the President of the General Assembly.

Question:  There is no reform of that?

Deputy Spokesman:  It's not something that I can speak to.  I don't speak for the President of the General Assembly.

Question:  The other question is this, in testifying in the case is Frances Fuller, who was the personal assistant to John Ashe — paid UN staff — attended a conference in Macau and other trips in Macau.  And I wanted to know I asked you about her before because after John Ashe left, she worked for Catherine Pollard and then for ex-Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  So, I wanted to know, one, does she still work in the system?  And two, what… did the UN's lawyers Mr. Gitlin or others speak with her before she testified?  And she claimed she didn't remember any of these trips to Macau and yet there were photographs of them, so I wanted to get I guess get your response to a person who stayed on post-Mr. Ashe, testifying in the case and saying I don't remember anything, I have no recollection, et cetera?

Deputy Spokesman:  I'll check to see whether she is with the UN still. 

   Later the UN sent Inner City Press this: "Frances Fuller no longer works for the UN (she separated on 14 September 2016)." So why can't or won't the UN provide an answer about Francis Lorenzo's UN.org email? It appears that Fuller is now "Project Manager at Sologistics
New York, New York, Environmental Services," after working for Ban Ki-moon for one year and five months. Fuller in court claimed she couldn't remember the details of the Macau trip. Inner City Press questions why the government has not called or pursued Ashe's chief of staff, who did not keep up diplomatic immunity despite slick efforts. Specifically, why didn't the US Attorney's office call or pursue Paulette A. Bethel, who as Ashe's chief of staff knew infinitely more about the payments than did Frances Fuller? As Inner City Press exclusively reported, there was questions of Bethel's immunity as a (former) Bermuda diplomat. Did that hold the US Attorney back? Or was it an attempt to protect the UN itself, given that Bethel continued at a night level there? We'll have more on this. Ng's defense lawyers have been arguing among other things that Ng's payment of money and obtaining a General Assembly resolution with his company's name in it (and a photo with Ban Ki-moon at the UN Correspondents Association ball, we might add) is just the way things are done at the UN. On July 21 reference was made, on the documents, to the UN's "Mr. Gitner." Inner City Press has previously asked the UN about Gitner, with the Spokesman saying he'd never heard of him.