The death by barbell of disgraced UN official John Ashe could become a bigger obsession for conspiracy theorists than Vince Foster’s 1993 suicide.
Ashe — who was facing trial for tax fraud — died Wednesday afternoon in his house in Westchester County. The UN said he’d had a heart attack. But the local Dobbs Ferry police said Thursday that his throat had been crushed, presumably by a barbell he dropped while pumping iron.
Ashe was due in court Monday with his Chinese businessman co-defendant Ng Lap Seng, who is charged with smuggling $4.5 million into the US since 2013 and lying that it was to buy art and casino chips.
Ng was identified in a 1998 Senate report as the source of hundreds of thousands of dollars illegally funneled through an Arkansas restaurant owner, Charlie Trie, to the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton administration. (Ng was not charged with any crime.)
Ng and Trie had visited the White House several times for Democratic fund-raising events and were photographed with then-President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton.
One source told me, “During the trial, the prosecutors would have linked Ashe to the Clinton bagman Ng. It would have been very embarrassing. His death was conveniently timed.”
Ashe’s lawyer Jeremy Schneider told me he is sure Ashe’s death was an accident. “There is not one iota of evidence that it was homicide. This is nothing at all like Vince Foster.”
Police in Dobbs Ferry village are keeping the investigation open pending an autopsy by the Westchester medical examiner.
More about the death below:
DOBBS FERRY, New York — A former president of the U.N. General Assembly awaiting trial in a bribery scandal died in a weightlifting accident when a barbell he was lifting from a bench dropped on his neck, an autopsy revealed Thursday.
John Ashe was declared dead late Wednesday afternoon by a paramedic who responded to his Dobbs Ferry home.
Dr. Kunjlata Ashar, Westchester County’s medical examiner, said the cause of death – traumatic asphyxia – was determined during an autopsy, though she did not perform the procedure herself and did not have additional details. It was deemed an accident based on a combination of information from the autopsy and an investigation by the Dobbs Ferry Police Department, officials said.
The police department said in a statement that the death appears accidental, but provided little information otherwise.
Ashe, the former United Nations ambassador from the twin-island Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, was arrested last fall and had pleaded not guilty to tax charges related to a bribery scandal. His attorney said he was planning to go to trial.
In a statement Wednesday, current U.N. General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft described Ashe as a “hard-working and popular member of the diplomatic corps in New York and at the United Nations” before he faced the unproven allegations. He had said Ashe died of a heart attack.
Prosecutors said a billionaire Chinese businessman and others had funneled over $1 million to Ashe while he served as president of the 193-nation assembly from September 2013 to September 2014. The billionaire Chinese real estate maven, two diplomats and a humanitarian organization officer were among others charged in the case.
Ashe’s attorney, Jeremy Schneider, called his client’s death “a tragic loss for his family and the community.”
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