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Ex-U.N. chief Ban's nephew sentenced to prison in U.S. for bribe scheme

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By Reuters
Ex-U.N. chief Ban's nephew sentenced to prison in U.S. for bribe scheme
FILE PHOTO: Joo Hyun Bahn (L), a nephew of former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, leaves a hearing in the federal court in Manhattan with his lawyer, Julia Gatto in New York City, New York, U.S. January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Nate Raymond/File Photo   -   Copyright  Nate Raymond(Reuters)

By Brendan Pierson

NEWYORK (Reuters) – Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s nephew was sentenced on Thursday to six months in U.S. prison for a bribery scheme that he thought would result in the sale of a Vietnamese building complex to a Qatari sovereign wealth fund, federal prosecutors said.

Joo Hyun “Dennis” Bahn, a South Korean citizen living in the United States, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in Manhattan. He had pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy and violating a U.S. foreign corruption law.

A lawyer for Bahn could not immediately be reached for comment.

In his guilty plea, Bahn admitted that in 2014 and 2015, he tried to arrange a bribe to secure the sale of Hanoi’s Landmark 72 building complex, owned by Korean construction company Keangnam Enterprises Co Ltd. Bahn’s father, Ban Ki-sang, was an executive at the company.

Bahn said he believed he was paying a $500,000 bribe to an official at Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund through a middleman, New York fashion designer and blogger Malcolm Harris. In reality, Bahn said, Harris had no connection with any Qatari official and kept the money.

U.S. prosecutors have also charged Ban Ki-sang, who remains at large. Prosecutors have said he enlisted his son to arrange the Landmark 72 sale to help Keangnam deal with a liquidity crisis.

Ban Ki-moon was long expected to make a bid for the presidency of South Korea but announced in February 2017 that he would not run, decrying “fake news” about him and his family.

Bahn’s lawyers said in a court filing last month that Bahn did not have a close relationship with his uncle.

Harris pleaded guilty to money laundering and wire fraud in June and was sentenced to 3-1/2 years in prison in October.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)