January 12, 2017 11:39
Former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon's younger brother and nephew have been indicted in New York over a tale of influence-peddling gone pathetically wrong.
Ban Ki-sang and his son Joo-hyun will face trial in a Manhattan federal court on charges that they tried to bribe a high-ranking government official in Qatar with US$500,000 in return for business favors as they sought to sell a high-riser in Vietnam in 2014.
According to the arraignment, Keangnam Enterprises sought to sell the Landmark 72 skyscraper in Hanoi back in 2013, when it ran into financial trouble following a W1 trillion investment to build the structure (US$1=W1,196).
Keangnam chairman Sung Wan-jong sought the help of Ban Ki-sang, who was an adviser, and U.S. realtors Colliers International, where Ban Joo-hyun served as director. Their efforts came to nothing until the Bans were approached by a middleman called Malcolm Harris, who claimed to have connections to a Qatari official who would in turn persuade an investment fund owned by the Gulf monarchy to buy the building.
The Bans allegedly gave Harris $500,000 in April 2014 and agreed to pay him another $2 million if the building was sold. But Harris in fact had no connections to Qatari officials and used the money to pay the rent for his penthouse in Manhattan.
Keangnam's financial troubles worsened, but Ban Joo-hyun still expected the bribe to pay off and told the company and investors that a sale was imminent. In 2015, Keangnam went bankrupt and Sung committed suicide after writing a confession with the names of politicians who took bribes from his company. It included several senior figures close to President Park Geun-hye, not least then-prime minister Lee Wan-koo, who eventually resigned.
There were rumors that Ban Joo-hyun boasted that his uncle the UN secretary-general could help him get in touch with the emir of Qatar, but Joo-hyun denied turning to his uncle for help.
Lee Do-woon, a spokesman for the former UN chief, said Ban only found out about the sorry saga "through media reports." "He probably knew nothing about the deal and was very surprised," Lee added.
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