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ICP Asks UN Spox of Corrupted UN Document in Macau, Why Banned from EZTV

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 27 -- As the UN bribery scandal gathered force Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an audit by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services. The audit, completed early this year but first put online by Inner City Press, directly criticizes Cristina Gallach, the Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information, including for her lack of due diligence and for dealings with South South News, which appears in the Panama Papers, through Macau-based Ng Lap Seng.

On April 27, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcipt here:

Inner City Press:  it seems like it's an expansion of the Ng Lap Seng bribery inquiry in Macau, which is obviously where his company, Sun Kian Ip Group, is based.  There's been a request that the prosecutors there take up the matter, including using the OIOS audit report.  And what they're saying is that the document that… that he was able to get from the UN Secretariat DGACM [Department of General Assembly and Conference Management], the altered document, about the conference centre was, in fact, shown to get investment to an investment bank in Macau.  So I wanted to know, does… does that give rise to more concern among the UN that not just a document was… was wrongfully changed and the name of a company inserted but this was, in fact, used to commit or attempt to commit financial fraud…?

Spokesman:  I think if there… we have done the audit we've done.  As I said, that has led to further investigations currently ongoing.  If the prosecuting services in Macau have a question, I have no doubt our colleagues at OLA [Office for Legal Affairs] will consider their request.

Inner City Press:  On the person that actually changed the document… seems like it's been since October that that's been asserted… has the UN identified the person?

Spokesman:  As I said, further investigations are ongoing.

Inner City Press:  And one thing… this is an access question, and it doesn't just affect me, so I'm asking you.  And it has to do with yesterday's Arria-formula meeting on Western Sahara.  We were encouraged by one of the proponents of the meeting to follow it, but in fact, it was… I was unable to follow it.  It's clear that some could follow it; ie, some portion of the meeting was on EZTV, so that those with offices could observe it and report on it.  It was not on webcast so no one around the world that was interested in it could see it.  And so I wanted to know, one, it seems like there's kind of a two-tier system of journalists even inside the building, those who can follow such meetings and those who can't.  And, two, what's UN's rationale for not making this available in a webcast more generally?

Spokesman:  I think that's a question to the organizers, and I'm sure for many of the computers that are available publicly, you can access EZTV.  Thank you.  I will get our guests.

Inner City Press:  Where would that be?

Spokesman:  In the basement.

  That is false.

On April 26, Inner City Press again asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman if Ban favors the full release of the Panama Papers, including to the U.S. Attorney for this ongoing Ng Lap Seng UN bribery case, and about another UN system audit, withheld. Video here; UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you again about the Panama Papers.  I know that… yesterday you'd said that you'd acknowledged that the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) do refer to transparency.  But I've seen that the form… the high-level panel on financial… illicit financial flows from Africa that the UN had with the AU, Mr. [Thabo] Mbeki has said that these papers, you know, cast great light on an issue of much interest to the United Nations.  So I wanted to ask you again, very specifically, should… does the Secretary-General believe that this trove of documents should be provided to prosecutors interested… that have open criminal cases involving people that are in them?

Spokesman:  I think if prosecutors need those papers, they should… they will put in a request to access to them…

Inner City Press:  No, because there's a…

Spokesman:  No, I understand, Matthew, but I really have nothing else to add...

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you, especially in the run-up to this CEB meeting, there's a big controversy around WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) and a withheld OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) audit that involves possible misconduct by the head of WIPO, Mr. Francis Gurry, and it seems like here you were saying that… that, you know, transparency, OIOS releases its documents there.  Only three pages have been released, and so there's many Member States but also people interested in UN corruption are interested in them.  Does he have a view… does the Secretary-General have a view whether that document should, in fact, be released? 

Spokesman:  I know… from what I know, the OIOS report was shared with the Governing Council of WIPO, which is a specialized agency with its own governing body.  Obviously, whatever can be done to support the work of OIOS should be done.

 On April 25, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Dujarric how it is acceptable that Gallach, given her appearances in the OIOS audit, did not recuse herself from the decision to oust and evict Inner City Press. Video here.

  Dujarric, after saying "this is your last question," Vine here, made a point of saying Inner City Press was not thrown out for its questions about corruption. No? Only for trying to, as part of the UN bribery story, cover an event in the UN Press Briefing Room that was nowhere listed as closed?

 Anyway, the obvious need for Gallach to recuse herself is a separate, open and shut question. Dujarric said he didn't go to law school but he understands what recusal means. Vine here. If so, Gallach's decision must be reversed. Inner City Press also asked Dujarric about the Panama Papers and if they should be released.

  South South News appeared in the Panama Papers leak, as incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. Inner City Press asked the UN how then SSN was allowed into the UN "Global Compact," and if any other Global Compact members appear in the Panama Papers. No answer from the UN.

  Now prosecutor Preet Bharara has written to the ICIJ - which has said it will not cooperate. It sounds principled - but why then, for example, did big media Agence France Presse, Voice of America and others share information with the authorities lobbying for the ouster of Inner City Press from the UN?

(Worse, Reuters not only targeted Inner City Press but also passed through South South News' defense, without disclosing that its UN bureau chief Lou Charbonneau and now reporter Michelle Nichols being on the Executive Committee of the UN Correspondents Association, which took Ng's SSN's money then arranged a photo op for Ng with Ban Ki-moon at the UNCA ball created and creates a conflict of interest.)

 These are selective principles - and the implications of Ng Lap Seng's bribery, to the very top of the UN, have yet to be fully plumbed but will be, despite harassment, eviction and big media trolls.

  Inner City Press on April 25 asked Dujarric if Ban Ki-moon, whose statement often pay lip service to the Sustainable Development Goals which include the idea that funding exists but is currently hidden in tax havens and illicit financial flows, believes the prosecutor should get and follow up on the files.  From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press: the US Attorney Preet Bharara has requested access to the full database of the Panama Papers, which he says are relevant to a criminal investigation his office has.  Since one of his criminal investigations involves Ng Lap Seng and the UN bribery scandal, I wanted to know, does the UN have a position on whether documents related to tax evasion or avoidance should be made available to prosecutors?  And I say it in the context of everything we heard about SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] and illicit financial flows.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric:  I think the Sec… the…

Inner City Press:  Do you call for these documents to be released?

Spokesman:  Listen, I… first of all, I'm not going to comment on whatever the US Attorney here in New York said.  I think the SDGs do call for greater transparency.

Inner City Press:  Okay.  There's one other related one.  Should I do it now?

Spokesman:  One.  And that's your last question.

Inner City Press: This happened on Friday, so there was no briefing, so I got to ask you about it today.  The OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] report into the John Ashe/Ng Lap Seng matter was put on OIOS'… its website.  It's final.  So, now that it is and now that it's no longer discussing a “leaked document or improperly uploaded document”, I wanted to ask you, given that the OIOS audit in paragraphs 37 through 40 and in 20B specifically say that the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Public Information did not conduct due diligence, thereby allowing these… the activities in the lobby and at the slavery memorial, how is it appropriate that this official without recusal ordered the ouster and eviction of a journalist asking about this very issue?  I just need to have a one-sentence answer.

Spokesman:  First of all, I think you're mixing up two things.  You know very well why the actions against you were taken.  It had nothing do with the questions you're asking or have asked.

Inner City Press:  You understand what recusal is?  Recusal…[means when you have a conflict of interest, you do not make the decision]

Spokesman:  I may not have gone to law school, but I do understand it.  And on your first… on the first part of your question, I think the audit is clear as to the recommendations that departments need to make.

Inner City Press:  What actions are going to be taken?

Spokesman:  Khalas.

  The UN's Cristina Gallach, without recusing herself, unilaterally deactivated Inner City Press UN residential correspondents pass on February 19, and had Inner City Press' reporter physically thrown out on First Avenue without coat or passport. Audio here.

  This is called retaliation. Then, after misrepresenting the restrictions she has put on the Press, she ordered the final eviction of all of Inner City Press' investigative files on Saturday, April 16 - video here and here (Periscope).

  (On April 18, while even with its BAN and Gallach-reduced accreditation Inner City Press is supposed to be able to enter the UN until 7 pm, the UN Guard on duty at the 46th Street entrance said no, only until 6 pm. Lawless. On April 19, Inner City Press was BANned from covering Kerry and Zarif.)

  Now, the South South News scandal connects with the so-called Panama Papers, about which Inner City Press twice asked the UN last week. Ng Lap Seng, who controlled the groups which were not reviewed by Gallach and got face time with Ban Ki-moon. On April 19, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you this, about the Panama Paper, the issue that came up yesterday of South-South News, in fact, being a British Virgin Islands corporation that appears in the Panama Papers, the President of the General Assembly had said actually yesterday that all organizations, presumably including the UN, should review things in light of the Panama Papers and tax evasions.  So, my question to you is, are there other entities that have joined and are currently members of the Global Compact which appear in the now public database of the Panama Papers as shell companies?

Spokesman:  I think… I can't answer that.  I think that's a question you need to raise directly with the Global Compact.

Inner City Press:  Can they come?  Can they come here?

Spokesman:  I think you could call them.  Thank you.

On April 18, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:  Questions on Western Sahara and South Sudan.  But given how little time we have, I want to be sure to ask you this question, particularly now that my files were moved out onto First Avenue on Saturday.  My question is as follows:  My question is, as… in the UN OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) audit and in the whole discussion since the indictments in October, it’s been said that this is an audit of NGOs (non-governmental organizations), South-South News… didn’t actually… Global Sustainability Foundation, Sun Kian Ip foundation.  And as you… I would trust that you know, in the Panama Papers, McClatchy has reported that, in fact, Ng Lap Seng’s South-South News was, in fact, a for-profit entity incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven.  And so, one, how can it be that a UN audit into this doesn’t… didn’t reflect on this?  What does it change in terms of it being… there was a press conference here in which civil society said there’s been a corporate, you know, invasion of the UN, and I would say… tie it to the Ban Ki-moon era.

Spokesman:  What’s the question?

Inner City Press:  My question is, now that it’s clear from the Panama Papers, a major global scandal, that Ng Lap Seng, who paid bribes to get into the UN, in fact, used offshore corporations to do it…

Spokesman:  What is the question?

Inner City Press:  The question is, isn’t this audit a little more than a cover-up, in that it doesn’t… [inaudible]

Spokesman:  No.

Question:  How can UN auditors not find [inaudible]…

Spokesman:  There is a criminal investigation going on, which, as we said, we would work with and cooperate with whatever… and, obviously, look at the requests from the US Federal authorities.  As I mentioned, the audit is a first step.  Other investigations are going on.  And South-South News’s status is being reviewed here.  I will say, for the record, that your files were not moved out on First Avenue.  From what I gather and from watching the live broadcast over the weekend, you refused to provide an address for them to be shipped.

Question:  Because I don’t trust them.

Spokesman:  Well, that’s… but that’s your choice.

Question:  Why would I?  Would you?

Spokesman:  That’s your choice.  I don’t want you to portray that they’ve been moved or thrown out.

Question:  They were thrown out onto First Avenue.  Ban Ki-moon…

Spokesman:  I’ll come back to you.

   Per McClatchy:

"Ng is listed as a shareholder of two British Virgin Islands companies – South South News International Group Ltd in May 2010 and GOLUCK Ltd. in 2004.

He leads a real estate development company in Macau, China, and is one of the world’s wealthiest people. He was accused in 1996 of sending more than $1.1 million to a Little Rock restaurant owner who then contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic National Committee, according to a 1998 Senate committee investigation.

The restaurant owner, Charlie Trie, pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws. Ng was not charged. Another congressional report criticized Ng and others for failing to cooperate during the investigation.

Published reports say Ng visited the White House 10 times from 1994 to 1996, had his photograph taken with Bill and Hillary Clinton, sat beside Bill Clinton at an event at a Washington hotel, and rode in an elevator with Hillary Clinton.

Last year, Ng was charged with bribing a United Nations official and lying about what he was doing with $4.5 million in cash he brought into the U.S. over two years. Investigators say instead of spending it at casinos or on art, antiques or real estate, he used the money for bribes as he sought investments in Antigua and China. Another man listed in the same criminal complaint is president of the New York-based South South News, the same name of the British Virgin Islands company.

Ng’s lawyer, Kevin Tung, has said that his charges are based on a misunderstanding. Tung, Benjamin Brafman and Hugh Mo, two others who are or have represented Ng, did not respond to requests for comment."

 Any due diligence by Gallach, prior to allowing the Vistors Lobby event and slavery memorial foundation, would have revealed these disqualifiers.

 Furthermore, this shows the weakness of OIOS' audit. OIOS refers to South South News as an "NGO." The UN has a relationship with this BVI for-profit corporation, then absolves itself about dealings with Ng Lap Seng, while Ban's and Gallach's response is to throw the Press in the street.

  On April 15, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq how much Gallach allowed the corruption Global Sustainability Foundation to put into the slavery event Ban Ki-moon attended, and about the Government Accountability Projects letter to Ban Ki-moon charging him with retaliation. Video here.


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