By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. authorities plan to announce charges in a corruption investigation involving United Nations officials and a billionaire real estate developer from the Chinese territory of Macau, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
Details were not immediately available. But the source said the charges related to last month's arrest of Ng Lap Seng, a Macau-based developer accused of lying to U.S. customs officials about why he brought $4.5 million in cash into the United States.
A spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office previously charged Ng, declined to comment. Alex Spiro, Ng's lawyer, said his client committed no crime.
Ng and his assistant, Jeff Yin, were arrested on Sept. 19. Prosecutors said they falsely claimed that $4.5 million they brought into the United States from China from 2013 to 2015 was meant for gambling or buying art, antiques or real estate.
U.S. prosecutors say Ng has a fortune of $1.8 billion, much of which he earned on developments in Macau. He sits on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an adviser to the government.
Ng heads the privately held Sun Kian Ip Group in Macau, whose foundation arm lists several ambassadors to the U.N. as holding leadership positions.
Those included Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador John Ashe, the former president of the U.N. General Assembly. According to an agenda for a U.N. event in Macau in August, Ashe was co-chairman of Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation.
Adam Rogers, an assistant director at the U.N. Office for South-South Cooperation, said Ng made hosting that U.N. event possible.
He called Tuesday's reports linking a bribery probe involving U.N. officials to Ng "upsetting," saying he believed the developer's motivations were to simply facilitate hosting an important meeting.
The U.N. event occurred less than a month before Ng and Yin, 29, were arrested.
At a Sept. 19 court hearing, prosecutor Daniel Richenthal said Yin, after being arrested, revealed funds were used to pay people "to engage in unlawful activities." Yin's lawyer has disputed that account.
Ng's name previously surfaced in U.S. investigations into how foreign money might have been funneled into the Democratic National Committee before the 1996 elections. He was never charged.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)