US arrests Chinese developer, aide for money import scheme

NEW YORK - US authorities have charged a real estate developer from the Chinese territory Macau and his principal assistant for engaging in a two-year scheme to import over US$4.5 million (S$6.37 million) into the United States under false pretenses.

Ng Lap Seng, the Chinese developer, and Jeff Yin, his assistant, were accused in a criminal complaint made public on Monday in federal court in Manhattan of engaging in a conspiracy to obstruct and make false statements to US customs officials.

Both men were arrested on Saturday, according to a spokesman for Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara. Prosecutors in Bharara's public corruption unit are handling the case following an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A lawyer for Ng, 68, did not respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Yin, 29, provided no comment on the charges when contacted Monday evening.

According to the complaint, Ng, who heads a major real estate development company in Macau, with Yin's help brought more than US$4.5 million in US cash into the United States from China from July 2013 to September 2015.

The complaint said that Ng and Yin concealed the true purpose of the money, repeatedly falsely telling US Customs and Border Protection officials that it was for buying art, antiques or real estate or to be used for gambling.

The complaint did not specify what the purpose was in reality.

But it cites a June 2014 meeting in the New York City borough of Queens with an unnamed business associate in which Ng brought a suitcase with about US$400,000 in cash that he had falsely claimed was meant for buying paintings and gambling.

In July 2014, the complaint says an FBI agent served a federal subpoena on Ng in connection with an unrelated investigation.

While the subpoena required Ng to personally appear that September, Ng failed to do so or respond to it, the complaint said.

It is unclear why the case is being handled by prosecutors in Bharara's public corruption unit.

Ng previously figured into a Congressional probe into how foreign money was funnelled into to the Democratic National Committee before the 1996 presidential election during the Clinton administration. He was never charged.