John Ashe, a former president of the UN general assembly, has been killed by a barbell weight while he remained under investigation over corruption claims by US authorities.
Ashe, who was accused by US prosecutors of taking bribes, died from neck trauma he suffered while lifting the barbell, a medical examiner concluded on Thursday.
The announcement came a day after police responded to a medical emergency call at Ashe’s residence in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
Ashe, 61, was pronounced dead from “traumatic asphyxia” after he had been on a bench lifting the barbell, said an official with the Westchester County Office of the Medical Examiner.
Antiguan ex-president of UN general assembly faces $1m corruption charges
Ashe – a former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who served as general assembly president from 2013 to 2014 – was arrested in October and accused of taking US$1.3m in bribes from Chinese businessmen. Seven people have been charged to date, three of whom have pleaded guilty.
Prosecutors said Ashe received more than $500,000 in bribes from billionaire Macau real estate developer Ng Lap Seng to seek UN support of a United Nations-sponsored conference centre in Macau that Ng’s company would develop.
Prosecutors said Ashe also received more than $800,000 from Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the United Nations and Antigua.
At the time of his death Ashe had only been charged with tax fraud, to which he had pleaded not guilty, amid questions about whether diplomatic immunity might preclude any bribery charges.
But at a 9 May hearing the assistant US attorney Daniel Richenthal said prosecutors were planning to seek a new indictment in the case against Ashe.
The case remains pending against Ng and his assistant, Jeff Yin, who prosecutors say helped bribe Ashe. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Ashe is survived by his wife, Anilla Cherian, and two children. In a statement provided by Ashe’s lawyers on Thursday, his family said, “We will forever miss his gentle nature, calm spirit, and infectious smile.”