Jury selection starts for trial of Chinese billionaire in UN bribery case

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 7:07am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 June, 2017, 11:52pm

Jury selection began on Monday in the New York criminal trial of a Chinese billionaire charged with trying to bribe United Nations diplomats to ease approval of a UN conference centre.

Ng Lap-seng, 69, has pleaded not guilty to six charges, including conspiracy, since his arrest in September 2015 during a visit to the United States.

More than 100 prospective jurors were part of the selection process in Manhattan federal court that was to continue Tuesday. It was unclear when opening statements might occur.

US District Judge Vernon S. Broderick told prospective jurors that the trial was likely to last four to six weeks. He said he was hopeful he could find “fair and impartial” jurors willing to decide the case solely on evidence or lack of evidence.

Ng Lap-seng is confined to a luxury Manhattan apartment with 24-hour armed guards while free on US$50 million bail. Prosecutors say he contributed a portion of over US$1 million in bribes that reached a former UN General Assembly president.

‘US charges against me are political’, Chinese billionaire Ng Lap-seng says after arrest in UN bribery scandal

A key witness in the trial is expected to be Francis Lorenzo, a suspended diplomat from the Dominican Republic who pleaded guilty to charges and agreed to testify against the billionaire.

Ng Lap-seng’s lawyers have cast him as the victim of a politically driven prosecution aimed at preventing construction of the conference centre in Macau and slowing the progress of Chinese influence over developing nations.