Saturday, April 30, 2016

Abandon Ship: Lawyers fleeing Lap Seng case

Lawyers representing key defendants in the Federal UN bribery and money laundering case against Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng and a slew of co-conspirators are abandoning the Lap Seng ship.

Benjamin Brafman, Mr. Ng's lead lawyer, filed a request with the presiding judge, Judge Vernon Broderick, to immediately remove himself from the case. The request was filed on April 12th and was to take effect immediately; Judge Broderick approved the request the following day. In his letter, Mr. Brafman did not specify what the reason(s) may be for his withdrawal but he did state that another lawyer, Mr. Hugh Mo will continue as the counsel of record. Mr. Mo runs his own private practice.

Mr. Ng has also added three new lawyers to his defense team. Tai H. Park, Douglas R. Jensen, and Christopher W. Greer, all associated with the law firm Park Jensen Bennett LLP, have filed Appearance of Counsel motions with the court on April 20th.

In an interesting development, on April 25th, attorney Herve Gouraige of the firm Sills Cummis & Gross P.C., the lawyers representing former Antiguan diplomat John Ashe, filed a request with Judge Broderick to postpone by two weeks the court hearing that was scheduled to be held on May 5th. The judge approved the request the following day, April 26th, and rescheduled the hearing for May 27th.

Motion to postpone Ashe hearing

However, in what can only be described as a stunning turn of events, on the very next day, April 27th, Mr. Gouraige sent Judge Broderick another letter "seeking immediate permission for Sills Cummis & Gross P.C. to withdraw as counsel for Ambassador John W. Ashe".

In his letter to Judge Broderick, Mr. Gouraige states:

"Our sole reason for making this application, which is based on extensive discussions with Ambassador Ashe (who has been under home detention since October 2015 and has not been able to secure employment), is that he has been unable to pay our Firm’s outstanding legal invoices for the past several months, and given that he has informed us that he has already exhausted all his available financial resources, he is not in a position to pay the Firm’s past and ongoing legal fees. It is my understanding that Ambassador Ashe will apply for Court-appointed counsel."

In a clear indication that Sills Cummis & Gross is nervous about ever getting paid by Ashe, he went on further:

"Although the Indictment was filed in or about late October 2015, the case itself is still at a very early stage, with the Government considering filing a superseding Indictment (which may or may not include additional charges against Ambassador Ashe). While discovery from the Government has been proceeding, a schedule for substantive motions has not yet been set by the Court, pending the superseding Indictment. No motions are pending at this time. No tentative trial date has been set. Permitting my firm to withdraw will have little or no effect on the legal proceedings in this case. The Court granted my April 25, 2016 request for a two-week adjournment of the scheduled May 5, 2016 conference and scheduled the next conference for May 27, 2016 at 3 p.m "

Motion to withdraw from Ashe case

John Ashe is broke and cannot pay his legal bills and may have to resort to having a court-appointed lawyer to represent him moving forward.

In his response to Mr. Gouraige's letter, Judge Broderick has instructed John Ashe, Mr. Gouraige, and lawyers for the Federal government to appear before him for a status conference on May 9th to discuss Mr. Gouraige's motion for release.

In other developments;

(1) The sentencing hearing for defendant Heidi Hong Piao has been adjourned to October 25th; the hearing was originally scheduled for April 25th. Ms. Piao has pleaded guilty to money laundering charges involving the transfer of money to former Antiguan government officials including former Prime Minister Spencer, through banks in Trinidad.(

(2) The sentencing hearing for defendant Shiwei Yan, originally scheduled for April 29th, was adjourned to June 9th. Ms. Yan, who headed the UN's Global Sustainability Project, was arrested and charged with bribing John Ashe. (

(3) Lawyers representing Francis Lorenzo, who pleaded guilty on six charges including bribery, money laundering and tax evasion, filed a motion with the court requesting modification of his home detention order. They have requested that Mr. Lorenzo be subjected to an 8-hour curfew, starting at 11:00pm to 7:00am every day. Mr. Lorenzo is out on a $2 million personal recognizance bond in addition to real estate holdings secured by family and close friends. Without objections, the request was approved. ( 

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  1. damn Ashe in serious trouble, he may as well become a government informant. Court appointed counsel will only work in the interest of gov't and most times they are of limited capabilities. What did those guys do with all those kickback monies? Don't they know they need to have atleast USD $100,000.00 on reserve just for lawyer fees. Drug dealers know that and smart drug dealers got atleast usd 250k just in case they catch a case. So they can hire a 'Johnny Cochrane' kinda lawyer.

  2. i also get the feeling Lap Seng isn't satisfied with the representation from his first lawyer(s), hence he asked them to withdraw. The lawyer or the firm gave no reason for withdrawing because it would look bad on them, letting the world know their client is unsatisfied with their representation

  3. Add to that Skerrit just left for NY on urgent personal business. Hmmmm....

  4. Maybe Brafman has a bigger client to work on. Maybe a Clinton.

    1. Is that the way crooked lawyers like Tony, Volney and Michael thst thief from Goodwill who got disbarred in the DC area?

    2. Bratman abandon the ship cause alk those rats are well trapped. That includes the rat Rosevelt

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