As India suspected, Chinese man may have paid #UN officer to stall #UNSC reform

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NEW DELHI: The arrest of former president of the UN General Assembly, John Ashe, on charges of bribery by the Chinese has vindicated India’s suspicion that key top level officials in the UN system were being paid off to delay or scuttle the Security Council reform process, among other things.

Earlier this month, Ashe, former envoy from Antigua & Barbuda was charged by US attorney Preet Bharara for accepting a bribe of $1.3 million from Chinese businessmen and officials for support for a multi-billion dollar “south south” UN-sponsored conference centre in casino capital Macau. Bharara’s complaint also stated that other Chinese nationals paid Ashe hundreds of thousands of dollars to facilitate their businesses in Antigua. While only some of the details of the bribery processes have been made public, they are enough to provide a clue to the methods China uses to influence UN processes.

For India, the more important part of the corruption charges against Ashe is the claim that the former GA president was reportedly paid to further Chinese interests. A part of this, they believe, has to do with influencing the progress of UN Security Council reform which China has steadfastly opposed. As president of UNGA between 2013-2014, Ashe started out by setting up an advisory body which drafted a ‘non-paper’ on the negotiations for UNSC reform. This, Indian officials say, was a simplified version of the 300-page draft negotiation document that was agreed to later in September 2015.

India was an enthusiastic supporter of the ‘non-paper’ which they hoped would later become the draft text, because the advisory body was representative of the major world groups. However, mysteriously for Indians, Ashe backed out from making this the text at the last moment. This came as a blow to India’s hopes, and it took a couple more years before the text was adopted. In a reprise, the last UNGA president Sam Kutesa, also wavered at the last moment, inserting paragraphs (inspired by China, say Indian officials) that would have dealt a big blow to the UN process. But this time the G4 and other countries prevailed on Kutesa, and the text went through.

According to news reports on the Ashe case, Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara, who announced the arrests of Ashe and the other defendants, said the investigation could result in more charges as authorities examine whether “corruption is business as usual at the United Nations.” “If proven, today’s charges will confirm that the cancer of corruption that plagues too many local and state governments infects the United Nations as well,” Bharara said. Ashe, says the complaint, received more than $800,000 from Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the UN and Antigua,

Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN was quoted as saying, UN secretary general Ban ki Moon “was shocked and deeply troubled to learn of the allegations, which go to the heart of the integrity of the UN,” Dujarric said. “Corruption is not business as usual at the UN.”

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