UN diplomat charged by US for bribe scheme gets $2 million bail

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UN Diplomats Bail Set At Cool $2 Million

(Reuters) A deputy United Nations ambassador from the Dominican Republic facing U.S. charges over a bribery scheme had his bail set at $2 million on Friday, despite a prosecutor's warnings that he poses a flight risk.

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Francis Lorenzo, who was arrested on Tuesday, must also live under house arrest with his mother after bail conditions are met and waive diplomatic immunity from future arrest, a federal magistrate judge in Manhattan ruled.

The decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman came over the objections of prosecutor Daniel Richenthal, who said the ongoing investigation had unearthed evidence that Lorenzo received even more bribes than authorities initially alleged.

"His incentive to flee is massive," Richenthal said.

Brian Bieber, Lorenzo's lawyer, sought to assure Pitman that Lorenzo would return to court, adding the Dominican Republic had just suspended him from his post. Outside of court, Bieber said he was confident that Lorenzo "didn't commit a federal crime."

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UN diplomat charged by US for bribe scheme gets $2 million bail
In this courtroom sketch, Jeff C. Yin, from left, Federal Defender Sabrina Shroff, defendant Heidi Park, defendant Francis Lorenzo and attorney Michael Himmel sit at an arraignment, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, in New York. John Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who served in the largely ceremonial post as head of the 193-nation assembly from September 2013 to September 2014, faces tax fraud charges in what authorities call a conspiracy with several others. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
In this courtroom sketch, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis sits at the bench during the arraignment of several people connected to a bribery corruption scheme that involved the former president of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015 in New York. John Ashe, turned the world body into a "platform for profit" by accepting over $1 million in bribes from a billionaire Chinese real estate mogul and other businesspeople to pave the way for lucrative investments, a prosecutor charged Tuesday. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2015, courtroom sketch, defendant John Ashe, right, sits in court during his arraignment on bribery charges in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. The former president of the United Nations General Assembly turned the world body into a "platform for profit" by accepting over $1 million in bribes from a billionaire Chinese real estate mogul and other businesspeople to pave the way for lucrative investments, a prosecutor charged Tuesday. Seated from left are co-defendant Sheri Yan, defense attorney Robert Van Lierop and defense attorney Mark Kirsch. (Elizabeth Williams via AP, File)
In this courtroom sketch, defendant Ng Lap Seng is seated in court at the defense table with his attorney during his arraignment on bribery charges in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. The billionaire businessman is accused of bribing a former president of the United Nations General Assembly. (Elizabeth Willliams via AP)
FILE - In this April 27, 2010 file photo, Francis Lorenzo, Deputy Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to the United Nations, attends a party held in honor of the Miss Italy beauty pageant in New York. Lorenzo and five others from the United Nations were charged Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015 in a bribery scheme by federal prosecutors in New York. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for Miren International, File)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks at a news conference where it was announced that a former president of the United Nations General Assembly was arrested Tuesday and charged with accepting over $1 million in bribes among other charges on October 6, 2015 in New York City. John Ashe, the U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda faces conspiracy- and bribery-related charges along with five other people. Those include Francis Lorenzo, a deputy U.N. ambassador from the Dominican Republic. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2013, file photo, Ambassador John Ashe, of Antigua and Barbuda, the president of the General Assembly's 68th session, speaks during a news conference at United Nations headquarters. Ashe accepted more than $500,000 in bribes from a Chinese real estate mogul and other businesspeople in exchange for help obtaining lucrative investments and government contracts, according to federal court documents unsealed Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: A picture board used by Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, shows that a former president of the United Nations General Assembly was arrested Tuesday and charged with accepting over $1 million in bribes among other charges on October 6, 2015 in New York City. John Ashe, the U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda faces conspiracy- and bribery-related charges along with five other people. Those include Francis Lorenzo, a deputy U.N. ambassador from the Dominican Republic. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, file photo, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, shakes hands with Ambassador John Ashe, of Antigua and Barbuda, the President of the General Assembly 68th session, at United Nations headquarters. Former United Nations General Assembly President Ashe accepted more than $500,000 in bribes from a Chinese real estate mogul and other businesspeople in exchange for help obtaining lucrative investments and government contracts, according to federal court documents unsealed Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
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The hearing followed the announcement of U.S. charges on Tuesday against six individuals including Lorenzo and John Ashe, a former president of the U.N. General Assembly and U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda.

A criminal complaint said Ashe, 61, took more than $1.3 million in bribes from Chinese businessmen, including billionaire Macau real estate developer Ng Lap Seng, who was arrested last month in a separate case.

Prosecutors said Lorenzo, 48, acted as an intermediary for Ng to pay $500,000 to Ashe to submit a document telling the U.N. secretary general that a yet-to-be built multibillion-dollar U.N.-sponsored conference center in Macau was needed.

At the same time, Ng paid Lorenzo $20,000 monthly while he served as "honorary president" of one of his organizations, South-South News, and directed additional payments to a company controlled by Lorenzo's brother in the Dominican Republic, prosecutors said.

At Friday's hearing, Richenthal, the prosecutor, said the bribes were even more extensive than first alleged and included being allowed to live in a $3.6 million luxury apartment near the United Nations that Ng bought last month.

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Lorenzo also received a $20,000-per-month contract with another of Ng's organizations, Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation, after attending a conference in Macau where Lorenzo "aggressively pushed" for the conference center, Richenthal said.

Bieber acknowledged Lorenzo, who was living in an apartment rented by South-South News, had been offered the opportunity to live in the apartment, but said it was "not gifted to him in any manner."

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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