October 5, 2017 / 5:01 PM / in a year

Designer gets three-and-a-half years for scam tied to ex-U.N. chief's relatives

(Reuters) - A New York fashion designer who has called himself the “curator of cool” was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on Thursday, after he pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a bribery case that involves a brother and nephew of former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Self-described arts and fashion consultant and blogger Malcolm Harris, 53, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in federal court in Manhattan, according to Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for New York federal prosecutors. He was ordered to pay $760,000 in restitution.

Harris pleaded guilty to money laundering and wire fraud in June. U.S. prosecutors had accused Harris in January of agreeing to act as a middleman in an international bribery scheme centred on a potential $800 million international real estate deal, and then running off with his co-conspirators’ money.

Prosecutors said those co-conspirators were Ban Ki-moon’s brother Ban Ki-sang, who was an executive at South Korean construction firm Keangnam Enterprises Ltd, and Ban Ki-sang’s son Joo Hyun “Dennis” Bahn, a real estate broker.

Bahn was also arrested by U.S. authorities and pleaded not guilty to criminal charges, while Ban Ki-sang was charged but remains at large.

According to an indictment, Ban Ki-sang arranged for Keangnam to hire his son to broker a refinancing on the Landmark 72 building complex in Hanoi to help the company deal with a liquidity crisis.

In March 2013, Bahn, through an acquaintance, met Harris, according to the indictment.

Harris told Bahn that he could help get a deal through his connections, offering to bribe an unnamed official to secure Landmark 72’s sale to a sovereign wealth fund, according to the indictment.

In April 2014, Bahn and Ban Ki-sang agreed to pay an upfront $500,000 bribe and another $2 million upon the sale’s closing to the official, with Harris acting as middleman, prosecutors said.

They said Harris had no actual connection to the official and kept the $500,000 for himself. He spent the money on airfare, hotels, lavish meals, furniture and apartments in Manhattan and Brooklyn, according to the indictment.

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

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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