Macau billionaire in U.N. bribery case gets $50 million bail

NEW YORK, Oct 16 (Reuters) - A billionaire real estate developer from Macau accused by U.S. authorities of bribing a former United Nations General Assembly president won the right on Friday to leave jail on a $50 million bond and live under house arrest in a luxury Manhattan apartment.

Ng Lap Seng, 68, had been in U.S. custody since his arrest on Sept. 19, after a federal judge determined that his financial resources made the Chinese national too much of a flight risk.

But over a prosecutor’s objections, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Fox in Manhattan accepted a proposal by Ng’s new attorneys to allow him to live under house arrest at a $3.6 million apartment under 24-hour watch by two private security guards.

Daniel Richenthal, the prosecutor, said the government may appeal the $50 million bail decision, having argued Ng “has every reason in the world to leave and none to stay.”

Benjamin Brafman, Ng’s lawyer, countered that his client is “not running away because he wants to clear his name.”

Fox also on Friday set bail at $500,000 for another defendant in the case, Sheri Yan, who was Global Sustainability Foundation’s chief executive officer. She must also live under house arrest.

Ng was arrested Sept. 19 with his assistant, Jeff Yin, for allegedly making false statements to customs officials about why they brought $4.5 million into the United States from China.

They were later charged on Oct. 6 with four others including John Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was U.N. General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014, with engaging in a corruption scheme.

Prosecutors said Ashe took more than $1.3 million in bribes from Chinese businessmen including Ng, who has a $1.8 billion net worth and developments in the Chinese territory Macau.

Prosecutors said Ng, who heads Sun Kian Ip Group, through intermediaries paid Ashe over $500,000 to seek U.N. support of a U.N.-sponsored conference center in Macau.

The intermediaries included Francis Lorenzo, a now-suspended deputy U.N. ambassador from the Dominican Republic who prosecutors said also received bribes from Ng.

Those bribes have been said to include the $3.6 million apartment Ng will reside in pending trial, Richenthal said on Friday. While Ng bought it days before his arrest, Richenthal said it was “effectively gifted” to Lorenzo.

Prosecutors said Ashe also received over $800,000 from Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the U.N. and Antigua arranged through Yan and Heidi Park, who was Global Sustainability Foundation’s finance director. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York)