Caribbean diplomat John Ashe, a former United Nations General Assembly president accused by US prosecutors of taking $US1.3 million ($1.73 million) in bribes from Chinese businessmen, has died at age 61, his lawyer says.
The death of Ashe — a former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who served as General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014 and was arrested in October on federal charges — was confirmed by his lawyer, Jeremy Schneider.
Reports indicate that Ashe died at about 4pm Wednesday of a Massive Heart Attack
Ashe’s death marks a surprising turn in the corruption case, in which seven people have been charged to date.
He had been in plea talks as recently as last month as prosecutors considered bringing further charges.
Prosecutors said Ashe received more than $US500,000 ($665,600) in bribes from billionaire Macau real estate developer Ng Lap Seng to seek UN support of a United Nations-sponsored conference centre in Macau that Ng’s company would develop.
Those bribes were paid through intermediaries that included Francis Lorenzo, a suspended deputy UN ambassador from the Dominican Republic, and Jeff Yin, Mr Ng’s assistant, prosecutors said.
Mr Lorenzo pleaded guilty in March, but Mr Ng and Mr Yin have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors said Ashe also received more than $1,064,962 from Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the United Nations and Antigua.
Those bribes were arranged through Sheri Yan, who was the Global Sustainability Foundation’s chief executive, and Heidi Hong Piao, the non-governmental organisation’s finance director, prosecutors said.
Both women pleaded guilty in January.