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Jury pick starts in UN-bribery trial of Chinese billionaire

Associated Press logo Associated Press 26/06/2017
FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, file photo, Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng, center, leaves federal court with his attorney Benjamin Brafman, right, after he was released on bail in connection with a United Nations bribery scheme in New York. Jury selection began Monday, June 26, 2017, in the New York criminal trial of Ng. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, file photo, Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng, center, leaves federal court with his attorney Benjamin Brafman, right, after he was released on bail in connection with a United Nations bribery scheme in New York. Jury selection began Monday, June 26, 2017, in the New York criminal trial of Ng. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

NEW YORK — Jury selection began Monday in the New York criminal trial of a Chinese billionaire charged with trying to bribe United Nations diplomats to ease approval of a U.N. conference center.

Ng Lap Seng, 69, has pleaded not guilty to six charges, including conspiracy, since his arrest in September 2015 during a visit to the United States.

More than 100 prospective jurors were part of the selection process in Manhattan federal court that was to continue Tuesday. It was unclear when opening statements might occur.

U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick told prospective jurors that the trial was likely to last four to six weeks.

He said he was hopeful he could find "fair and impartial" jurors willing to decide the case solely on evidence or lack of evidence.

Ng is confined to a luxury Manhattan apartment with 24-hour armed guards while free on $50 million bail.

Prosecutors say he contributed a portion of over $1 million in bribes that reached a former U.N. General Assembly president.

A key witness in the trial is expected to be Francis Lorenzo, a suspended diplomat from the Dominican Republic who pleaded guilty to charges and agreed to testify against Ng.

Ng's lawyers have cast him as the victim of a politically driven prosecution aimed at preventing construction of the conference center in Macau and slowing the progress of Chinese influence over developing nations.

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