Former UN General Assembly president John Ashe who was awaiting trial in $1million corruption scandal died in weightlifting accident after barbell dropped on his neck

A former U.N. General Assembly president who was awaiting trial in a $1million bribery scandal died in a weightlifting accident when a barbell he was lifting from a bench dropped on his neck, an autopsy revealed. John Ashe (left with his wife, and right) was declared dead at his home on Wednesday afternoon by a paramedic who responded to his home in Dobbs Ferry, New York. 12548

He was 61. Dr. Kunjlata Ashar, Westchester County’s medical examiner, said the cause of death – traumatic asphyxia – was determined during an autopsy. In a statement, the police department said the death appears accidental, but provided little information otherwise.

ashe and clinton

Ashe, (left), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (center) and Hillary Clinton are pictured at the ‘Equality for Women is Progress for All’ event at the United Nations in New York City in March 2014

It was deemed an accident based on a combination of information from the autopsy and an investigation by the Dobbs Ferry Police Department, officials said. In a statement, the police department said the death appears accidental, but provided little information otherwise.Ashe, a former United Nations ambassador from the twin-island Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, was arrested last fall. Ashe pleaded not guilty to tax charges related to a bribery scandal. His attorney said he was planning to go to trial. Or how about ‘He was to tell on some people’ is more like it. In a statement on Wednesday, current U.N General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft described Ashe as a ‘hard-working and popular member of the diplomatic corps in New York and at the United Nations’ before he faced the proven allegations.

Prosecutors said a billionaire Chinese businessman and others had funneled over $1 million to Ashe while he served as president of the 193-nation assembly from September 2013 to September 2014.  He was accused by U.S. federal authorities of turning the position into a ‘platform for profit’ by accepting $1.3million in bribes. The billionaire Chinese real estate maven, two diplomats and a humanitarian organization officer were among others charged in the case. Prosecutors said Ashe received more than $500,000 in bribes from billionaire Macau real estate developer Ng Lap Seng to seek U.N. support of a United Nations-sponsored conference center in Macau that Ng’s company would develop.

Those bribes were paid through intermediaries that included Francis Lorenzo, a suspended deputy U.N. ambassador from the Dominican Republic, and Jeff Yin, Ng’s assistant, prosecutors said. Lorenzo pleaded guilty in March. Ng and Yin have pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said Ashe also received more than $800,000 from Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the United Nations and Antigua. Those bribes were arranged through Sheri Yan, who was the Global Sustainability Foundation’s chief executive, and Heidi Hong Piao, the non-governmental organization’s finance director, prosecutors said. Both women pleaded guilty in January. 3592C993

Authorities said Ashe solicited bribes in various forms, including payments to cover a New Orleans family vacation and construction of a $30,000 basketball court at his house in Dobbs Ferry, New York. At the time of his death, Ashe had only been charged with tax fraud in connection with the bribes, amid questions about whether diplomatic immunity might preclude any bribery charges. But at a May 9 hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal said prosecutors were planning to seek a new indictment in the case against Ashe.Ashe had been in plea talks as recently as last month as prosecutors mulled further charges. The status of those plea talks was not immediately clear.

A spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office was pursuing the case, had no immediate comment on Wednesday. Ashe’s attorney Jeremy Schneider said his client was preparing for trial. Asked if his client had died from a heart attack as reported by an Antiguan media outlet, Schneider has said that was his understanding on Wednesday. But Schneider later clarified that he did not know the cause of death. ‘I do not know definitively what the cause of death was,’ he said. ‘It’s a tragic loss for his family and the community. He was preparing to fight his case at trial.’ Ashe is survived by his wife, Anilla Cherian, and two children.


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