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US indicts former UN chief’s relatives with bribery

NEW YORK, Jan 11: US prosecutors have indicted relatives of former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, accusing them of trying to bribe a Middle Eastern official over the attempted US$800 million sale of a building in Hanoi.

The 39-page indictment, unsealed on Tuesday (Jan 10), charges Joo Hyun Bahn, also known as Dennis, a Manhattan real estate broker, and his father Ban Ki Sang, a senior executive in a South Korean construction company.

Also charged is US citizen Malcolm Harris, accused of masquerading as a go-between with the Middle Eastern official but instead pocketing a US$500,000 bribe which he frittered away on personal luxuries.

Ban is a brother of the former UN secretary general, who was succeeded at the helm of the United Nations on Jan 1 by former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres, and Bahn is a nephew.

US prosecutors allege that the international bribery conspiracy took place between March 2013 and May 2015 in relation to the attempted sale of a commercial and residential complex in Hanoi, built and owned by Keangnam Enterprises, a South Korean construction company.

The plot focused on an attempt to get an official from an undisclosed Middle Eastern kingdom to purchase the property using a sovereign wealth fund and allegedly included an attempt to contact the head of state while he was in New York for the annual UN General Assembly.

The father and son agreed to pay an initial bribe of US$500,000, wired to an account in New York from South Korea in April 2014, followed by a payment of US$2 million upon completion of the sale, prosecutors said.

Harris instead allegedly pocketed the money and the sale never went through, ultimately forcing Keangnam to enter court receivership in South Korea due to a growing liquidity crisis.

Ban’s relatives are charged with corruption, money laundering and conspiracy. His nephew faces additional charges over an alleged forgery that sought to present the building sale as imminent.

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