Suspended Dominican diplomat cites immunity in UN case

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NEW YORK (AP) — A Dominican Republic diplomat asked a judge Tuesday to toss out charges against him in the United Nations bribery scandal, saying he's entitled to immunity.

Lawyers for Francis Lorenzo filed papers in Manhattan federal court, asking Judge Vernon Broderick to drop charges including conspiracy, bribery and money laundering that were brought against the 48-year-old suspended deputy ambassador to the United Nations.

The case has also resulted in charges against a former president of the United Nations General Assembly and a Chinese billionaire, among others.

Attorney Brian Bieber wrote that Lorenzo is entitled to immunity because he was working as a diplomat from 2011 to 2014, when the crimes are alleged to have occurred. He noted that even the criminal complaint against his client describes that Lorenzo has been the deputy permanent representative to the United Nations for the Dominican Republic since 2004.

"Lorenzo is protected from prosecution by virtue of his diplomatic agent immunity," the lawyer said. He added that diplomats such as Lorenzo are entitled to the highest degree of immunity, protecting them from civil and criminal actions.

Lorenzo is free on $2 million bail after surrendering to federal authorities on Oct. 6.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he was paid tens of thousands of dollars a month to support the construction of a multibillion-dollar, U.N.-sponsored conference center that the Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng hoped to build in his hometown of Macau.

Ng is subject to electronic monitoring and 24-hour guards while free on $50 million bail. John Ashe of Dobbs Ferry, New York, is free on $1 million bail after his arrest on tax charges. Prosecutors have said they are likely to bring additional charges against Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who served in the largely ceremonial role of U.N. General Assembly president for a year until September 2014.

Ng and Ashe have each pleaded not guilty.

James Margolin, a spokesman for prosecutors, declined to comment on Lorenzo's request.

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