NEW YORK (AP) — For the second time in three decades, a billionaire Chinese real estate mogul is central to a scandal over whether his money was used to buy influence in the United States.
Authorities say in the mid-1990s Ng Lap Seng funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic National Committee through a restaurant owner who knew then-President Bill Clinton. He visited the White House at least 10 times and was photographed with the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. The restaurant owner eventually pleaded guilty to a felony.
Now, a federal prosecutor has charged Ng criminally with playing a central role in a $1.3 million bribery scheme to corrupt a former president of the United Nations General Assembly.
In court papers, investigators wrote that Ng’s chief assistant, Jeff C. Yin, revealed in a recorded interview after his arrest two weeks ago that his boss made payments to obtain official action from the United Nations on a multibillion-dollar project to construct a U.N. conference center in his hometown of Macau as “Ng’s ‘legacy’ in Macau.”
Ng was denied bail Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, just as he was two weeks ago when he was arrested on charges that he was failing to accurately report what he planned to do with $4.5 million in cash he brought into the U.S. over several years aboard private jets. At the time, investigators said, he was wearing a $200,000 watch.
Defense lawyer Alex Spiro said in a statement that Ng “committed no crime.”
During an earlier court appearance after Ng’s arrest, a prosecutor said Ng had a $1.8 billion net worth, had $300 million in annual earnings, owned $1 billion in Chinese real estate and had a $30 million fleet of private jets.
Yin, a U.S. citizen, was denied bail Tuesday, just as he had been last week when prosecutors said he had lied about several key facts when he spoke to investigators after his arrest with Ng two weeks ago. Yin’s lawyer did not immediately return a message requesting comment.
Associated Press writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.