NEW YORK – A judge tightened security Monday at the luxury Manhattan apartment where a Chinese billionaire convicted of bribing United Nations diplomats will likely reside under 24-hour guard until sentencing.
U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick rejected a request by prosecutors to immediately imprison 69-year-old Ng Lap Seng after his conviction over a week ago on bribery and money laundering charges. The charges carry a potential prison term lasting decades, though his actual sentence would be far less.
"It is literally difficult to imagine a defendant with a greater incentive to flee," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal.
A jury convicted Ng of paying over $1.7 million in bribes to two ambassadors from 2010 to 2015 to arrange support to construct a huge U.N. conference center in Macau, where he resides. No sentencing date has been set.
On the day of the verdict, Broderick imposed new conditions on Ng's $50 million bail package, confining Ng to his $4 million apartment, which will end his nearly daily excursion to a Chinatown restaurant.
At Monday's hearing, the judge seemed surprised to learn that Ng was receiving massages every other day in his bedroom with the door closed and that the massage therapist remained at the apartment for four to 10 hours, cooking meals that were sometimes also served to Ng's armed guards.
The judge put one of the guards from a private security company on the witness stand and learned that the guards used Ng's visitors, mostly family, as interpreters and that the guards generally did not use a security wand to search familiar members of Ng's family for metal objects when they entered the apartment.
Broderick ordered the guards to stop eating food cooked in Ng's apartment, to use the wand to search all visitors for metal objects and to ensure the bedroom door remains open during massages while making periodic walk-through checks of the apartment.
He also ordered the guards to enable prosecutors or federal law enforcement to see video feeds of rooms within the apartment. And he limited visitors to family members with a requirement that a third guard be required if more than five adults were in the apartment.
Finally, he said an independent interpreter must be hired to be in the apartment during waking hours.
Defense attorney Andrew Genser, who argued on Ng's behalf, said his client has faith in the U.S. judicial system and had no plans to flee.
Genser said one of the men guarding Ng had a massive heart attack last year and Ng helped keep him alive until he could reach a hospital. He said Ng, who suffers from heart disease as well as high blood pressure and diabetes, never mentioned the dramatic episode to him in the year that followed, but he said his response to it demonstrated he was no threat to flee.
"He hasn't been sitting around trying to plot some escape plan," Genser said. "He's been plotting his appeal."