UNITED NATIONS, August 23 – Three weeks after the UN bribery verdict of six guilty counts against Ng Lap Seng was delivered by the jury on July 27, on August 16 Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for his response to the verdict. He scoffed and walked off. Video here. But now Guterres is listed at speaking at an event on August 25 in the UN's ECOSOC Chamber - which Inner City Press for 18 months and counting has required a UN "minder" to reach - by a group linked to Carlos Garcia, shown in the Ng trial to have aided money laundering.
Today Inner City Press publishes this emailfrom Garcia, attached hereto, to help Ng wire money to Francis Lorenzo through a relative in the Dominican Republic. And here's Garcia at the founding of Guterres' August 25 host. We'll have more on this.
How far will the UN go to get positive media coverage, and to punish and hinder, if still not prevent, critical oversight? Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's 2015 to Honduras and El Salvador was given entirely positive coverage by South South News, the $300,000 a month bribery conduit of now convicted Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng. Click here for that coverage, still online. Now in emails obtained and published by Inner City Press, it is shown that South South News president Francis Lorenzo, who has pleaded guilty, wrote to UN official Yiping Zhou about the coverage: “Dear yiping enclose see the first report of our coverage of the trip of the SG to El Salvador.” Zhou wrote back, “Great job covering the SG's visit. We should do more for the SG, and other heads of UN organs especially also for our UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. Please find my letter of support” - a letter supporting Ng's now-disgraced, never-built Macau conference Center. So the UN supported Ng's corrupt plan, in response to positive coverage of Ban Ki-moon by Ng's South South News. Zhou was Ban Ki-moon's personal Envoy on South South Cooperation. And like Zhou's letter for Ng's project, Ban wrote a "personal 'Thank You' note" to South South News Afaf Konja "for her coverage of his official visit, calling her a 'champion for South-South Cooperation.'" These names came up repeatedly during the Ng Lap Seng prosecution, begun by then-US Attorney Preet Bharara with the question, Is bribery business as usual at the UN? The answer was and is, Yes. And when Inner City Press pursued the Ng Lap Seng bribery scandal, seeking to cover a meeting of the UN Correspondents Association who took full page ads from Ng' South South News and provided the venue for Ng's photo op with Ban (Cipriani 42nd Street), Inner City Press was evicted from the UN Press Briefing Room, then its long time office in the UN, where it still remains restricted under Ban's successor Antonio Guterres. On August 16, Inner City Press asked Guterres about the Ng guilty verdicts; Guterres declined to answer. The UN still contains corruption, and still punishes and restricts the Press which covers it. Beyond the corruption, it is a conflict of interest to have the same UN Department which views its role as promoting positive coverage of the UN be the one to decide, without rules or free press constraints, which media get full access, and which like Inner City Press are evicted and restricted. The incoming head of the UN Department of Public Information Alison Smale, replacing Cristina Gallach who partied at Ng's South South Awards and did no due diligence on his events and sponsorships in the UN, will have to deal with this. We'll have more on this. On August 17 Inner City Press asked Guterres' deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about trial exhibits it has begun to receive, on Meena Surand the Global Compact, for first examples. Video here; from the UN transcript here, text below. On August 18, Inner City Press asked Haq about another of the many exhibits, moving closer to home: UN transcript here: Inner City Press: as these exhibits from the Ng Lap Seng trial continue to come in, I wanted to ask you, I was surprised to see it, because it wasn't, at least the days that I went, presented in the trial. There are documents that show that the office, UN Office of South-South Cooperation, wrote a letter supporting the conference centre in Macau, specifically after South-South News covered a Ban Ki-moon trip. I think they were the only media to cover it, and afterwards, they were congratulated by the Office of South-South Cooperation, and a letter was produced by Mr. Yiping Zhou supporting the conference center. From the document, it appears that the UN system as a whole, whether the Secretary-General knew or not, essentially rewarded positive coverage of this Ban Ki-moon trip with a letter for a conference centre that's now been totally discredited and was not built because it was based on bribery. And I wanted to know, what is the UN's position on this? What is… I know Mr. Yiping Zhou has left, but what was the connection between the South-South News travelling with and covering Ban Ki-moon's trip and this letter that was given to the, the Sun Kian Ip Foundation to build a conference centre in Macau?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I'm not aware of any connection.
Regarding concerns about South-South News, we've explained to you at the time what our concerns had been about South-South News and its activities. They are no longer accredited, and the Office of South-South Cooperation, as you know, had undergone different reforms under its new leadership, and I believe they've been in touch with you about that.
Inner City Press: My question really at this point goes to the Secretariat, if you see what I'm saying, because the… the activity of South-South News that UNDP's [United Nations Development Programme] Office of South-South Cooperation was rewarding with this letter was coverage of the Secretary-General's trip. So was this done with no knowledge by the Secretariat… by the Secretariat?
Deputy Spokesman: We, we don't, we don't "reward" coverage of trips by Secretaries-General. I mean, there are many trips. Many, many outlets cover them.
Deputy Spokesman: If they were all getting rewarded for them, that would be lots and lots of rewards to hand out. Have a good weekend, everyone.
From August 17: Inner City Press: now that the Ng Lap Seng verdict has been rendered, Inner City Press has been obtaining the exhibits. And I wanted to ask you, because, even going back and looking at the audit, several things were not solved. Number one, there’s now specific emails involving current DGACM (Department of General Assembly and Conference Management) employee Meena Sur to Francis Lorenzo regarding the insertion of the name Sun Kiang Ip Group into a GA (General Assembly) document, that’s referenced in the audit. Many people say Mr. [Ion] Botnaru retired. That’s why nothing was ever done. I guess what I want to know is, what’s been done? Is there some explanation, again, of a current UN official having worked on the insertion of this company name into a GA document improperly?
Deputy Spokesman: Regarding the general issue, without getting into the cases of specific individuals, the fact is the Department of Management has followed up on the various conclusions brought in by these reports and has made sure that all actions are properly undertaken.
Inner City Press: There’s another email, which is the Global Compact responded to Francis Lorenzo actually but about Sun Kiang Ip Group joining the Global Compact. And it said, “We’ll get back to you after review of one or two weeks.” So, I wanted to know, in terms of the Global Compact, given that Sun Kiang Ip Group is involved in casinos and other businesses, what review on the front end… I know it’s often said, once you join the Global Compact, the only thing that’s required is the filing of reports, not anything substantive. But what review is done if, in fact, a casino business itself already involves controversy at the time can join?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I believe the Global Compact on its own website tells you exactly what its priorities are and what it asks of incoming members, so I would just refer you to that.
Inner City Press: So how do they join?
Deputy Spokesman: No, just look at the website. It shows you what it expects from incoming members. Have a good afternoon, everyone.