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Federal judge rules UN ambassador not immune from bribery prosecution

[JURIST] Judge Vernon Broderick for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] ruled on Thursday that suspended Deputy UN Ambassador Francis Lorenzo cannot claim diplomatic immunity on bribery charges. Lorenzo, representing the Dominican Republic, has been facing criminal allegations involving bribery [complaint, PDF] since early October. The judge held that because Lorenzo is a naturalized citizen of the US, his diplomatic status is not afforded immunity from criminal prosecution under any treaty or federal law. The judge asserted that Lorenzo could only enjoy immunity for any official acts he conducted under his diplomacy, but his standing as a US citizen on a mission for a foreign nation was insufficient on its own.

Former UN General Assembly president John Ashe was charged [JURIST report] for allegedly taking part in a scheme to receive $1.3 million in bribes to conduct official actions supporting Chinese business interests. Deputy UN Ambassador for the Dominican Republic Francis Lorenzo and three other defendants were also charged [press release]. The Attorney's Office believes Ashe has been accepting bribes since 2011 facilitated by Lorenzo. According to the complaint, Lorenzo approached Ashe in 2010 to take part in the scheme. Lorenzo invited Ashe to Macau, China, to meet one of the other defendants, Ng Lap Seng, who was seeking support for a UN Macau Conference Center. In exchange for submitting reports to the UN in support conference center, Ashe allegedly began soliciting money from Ng. Lorenzo also hired Ashe's wife to be a "climate change consultant" in his non-governmental organization. According to the US Attorney, Ashe also solicited other businessmen who wanted to invest with Antiguan government officials. He allegedly failed to report this income in his 2013 and 2014 income tax returns.

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