NEW YORK -” Prosecutors cannot use post-arrest statements a Chinese billionaire made to the FBI at his Manhattan trial on charges stemming from a United Nations bribery scandal, a judge ruled Wednesday.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick was a victory for lawyers for Ng Lap Seng after they argued the FBI’s interview of Ng should not have taken place after he requested a lawyer.
The judge called the government’s continued questioning of Ng improper.
According to a transcript of the FBI interview included in the court record, Ng said his primary reason for trips to the United Nations was to promote plans to build a U.N. conference center in Macau.
“My goal is to build this exhibition center, the largest in the world,” Ng was quoted as saying.
Lawyers for Ng have argued in court papers that the prosecution is politically motivated, saying the United States arrested Ng to block construction of the U.N. center in China that was meant to serve southern hemisphere nations. They said the United States wanted to slow the progress of Chinese influence over developing nations.
Ng also was asked during the interview about a photograph on the internet of him with former President Barack Obama.
According to the transcript, he said a friend from Taiwan introduced him to Obama.
Ng is confined to a luxury Manhattan apartment under 24-hour guard as part of the $50 million bail package imposed after his 2015 arrest. He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he contributed a portion of more than $1 million in bribes that reached a former U.N. General Assembly president.
Also Wednesday, Broderick rejected Ng’s request to toss out the indictment and ordered the government to identify Ng’s alleged co-conspirators and alleged bribe payments at least two weeks prior to a trial scheduled to start May 30.
Broderick also said over defense objections that prosecutors at trial can refer to Ng as “Boss Wu,” though the jury must be informed that the meaning of “boss” in Chinese is a reference to a supervisor or someone with superior status entitled to deference.
Defense lawyers had argued that use of the words was highly prejudicial because jurors might think it implies Ng is involved in organized crime.
Prosecutors declined through a spokesman to comment on the judge’s rulings.
Tai Park, a lawyer for Ng, also declined to comment.