U.S. charges former U.N. chief Ban’s relatives in bribery case

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By Nate Raymond | NEW YORK

NEW YORK Two relatives of former U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon have been indicted on U.S. charges
that they engaged in a scheme to bribe a Middle Eastern official
in connection with the attempted $800 million sale of a building
complex in Vietnam.

Joo Hyun “Dennis” Bahn, a New York real estate broker who is
Ban Ki-Moon’s nephew, and his father Ban Ki-sang, Ban Ki-moon’s
brother who was a senior executive at South Korean construction
firm Keangnam Enterprises Co Ltd, were charged in an indictment
unsealed on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.

Bahn is in custody and expected to appear in court later on
Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara
said. Defense lawyers could not immediately be identified.

The charges came after Ban Ki-moon stepped down on Dec. 31
after serving two five-year terms as U.N. Secretary-General.

Ban Ki-moon was not charged. A former foreign minister of
South Korea, Ban is expected to enter the race to become the
country’s next president, though he has yet to declare his
intention to do so.

He could not be immediately reached for comment.

According to the indictment, in 2013, Keangnam was facing a
liquidity crisis and turned to Bahn to secure an investor for a
Vietnamese building complex called Landmark 72 in exchange for a
potential $5 million commission.

Rather than obtain financing legitimately, Bahn and Ban
Ki-sang engaged in a scheme to pay bribes to an unnamed Middle
Eastern official to convince his country’s sovereign wealth fund
to acquire Landmark 72, the indictment said.

The bribes were paid through Malcolm Harris, a
self-described arts and fashion consultant and blogger who was
also charged and who the indictment said claimed to be an agent
of the official.

Based on communications with Harris, in April 2014, Bahn and
Ban Ki-sang agreed to pay an upfront $500,000 bribe and another
$2 million upon the sale’s closing, the indictment said.

But Harris did not have the relationship he claimed with the
official, the indictment said, and stole the $500,000, which he
spent lavishly.

As Keangnam’s liquidity crisis worsened, Bahn – believing
the bribe had been paid and would work out – schemed to trick
Keangnam and its creditors into believing the sovereign wealth
fund was close to acquiring Landmark 72, the indictment said.

But when the deal ultimately failed to materialize, Keangnam
entered into court receivership in South Korea, according to
court papers.

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