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US arrests ex-UN General Assembly president on corruption charges

US authorities have charged UN ambassador and former General Assembly president John Ashe with taking over a million dollars in bribes. The UN's top official Ban Ki-moon is "shocked" by the news, his spokesman says.

The former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda is facing charges of conspiracy and corruption, along with five other people, US officials said Tuesday.

According to court papers, John Ashe (pictured) allegedly took $800,000 (710,000 euros) from Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the UN. The high-ranking official also allegedly received another $500,000 (444,000 euro) from real estate billionaire Ng Lap Seng, who wanted to build a large UN-sponsored conference center in Macau.

"If proven, today's charges will confirm that the cancer of corruption that plagues too many local and state governments infects the United Nations as well," US Attorney Preet Bharara said in New York on Tuesday.

UN's Ban 'shocked'

Ashe also served as UN

General Assembly

president in 2013 and 2014, which is largely a ceremonial role but allows access to top tiers of the global body. According to the prosecution, Ashe spoke in favor of Macau conference center to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The secretary general "was shocked and deeply troubled" by the news, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Tuesday.

"Corruption is not business as usual at the UN," Dujarric added, stressing that the UN secretariat would cooperate if contacted by US authorities.

Former UN deputy ambassador from the Dominican Republic Francis Lorenzo is also charged in the corruption case, and more arrests might follow, prosecutor Bharara said.

The Macau real estate developer Ng was arrested on separate charges last month. Ng is accused of misleading US authorities about millions of dollars in cash he brought in the US aboard private jets.

dj/se (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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