Macau feels impact of UN bribery scandal

(From Nikkei Asian Review)

By Zach Coleman, Nikkei Asian Review deputy editor

HONG KONG–Macau is set to feel a further impact from the United Nations bribery scandal involving local developer David Ng Lap-seng as the global organization cancels plans for events and offices in the city.

Macau skyline at night

Macau skyline at night

Ng has been charged by prosecutors in New York with bribery and money laundering over alleged payments of $500,000 to former U.N. diplomat John W. Ashe. Ng allegedly sought to enlist Ashe to push for the construction of a “multi-billion dollar” U.N. expo center in Macau for the benefit of Ng’s Sun Kian Ip Group. Ng and Ashe have pled not guilty to all charges and been released on bail.

While some 200 delegates at a U.N. forum Aug. 25-26 at the Grand Hyatt Macau endorsed the building of the expo center, further discussion on the proposal has been suspended since Ng’s arrest on Sept. 19.

The chill from Ng’s arrest however has since spread. The U.N.’s World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty, a network of some 900 municipal governments, had planned to hold its next “Global Forum” in Macau; the last Global Forum, held in Dublin in February 2013, drew more than 500 delegates.

David Ng Lap-seng in Macau

David Ng Lap-seng in Macau

However, the next Global Forum is no longer to be held in Macau, according to a spokesperson for the U.N. Office for South-South Cooperation, which oversees the Geneva-based World Alliance.

The official added that a plan discussed at the August meeting in Macau to shift part of the World Alliance’s secretariat to the city also “will not be pursued.”

The abandonment of the plans regarding the forum and the secretariat come after the South-South office said it would not be accepting some $13.5 million in funding offered by Ng’s Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation. The office had used a $1.5 million donation from the foundation to help finance the August forum in Macau and one held in Dhaka in May and to support the World Alliance. The U.N. has launched multiple reviews of its ties to the foundation following the arrests of Ng and Ashe.

Officials in Macau are keen to promote meetings and conferences, especially those involving visitors from afar, to reduce the dependence of the city’s tourism industry on casino gambling. The city hosted 23 meetings involving at least 200 people in the April-June quarter, according to government figures. Read more

Categories: Asia Unhedged, China

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