NEW YORK A New York fashion designer who calls
himself the “curator of cool” pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to
charges stemming from a U.S. bribery case that has ensnared
relatives of former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Malcolm Harris, a self-described arts and fashion consultant
and blogger, entered his plea in Manhattan federal court to
charges that include wire fraud and aggravated identity theft
after being arrested last week in Mexico.
During a brief court appearance, Harris, dressed in a brown
shirt and military-style camouflage pants, was ordered held
without bail by a federal magistrate judge. His lawyer declined
Harris is one of four defendants who have been charged in
connection with a case that has complicated Ban’s expected run
for president of South Korea after he recently completed his
term at the United Nations.
The defendants include Joo Hyun Bahn, a real estate broker
who is Ban Ki-moon’s nephew, and his father Ban Ki-sang, Ban
Ki-moon’s brother who was an executive at South Korean
construction firm Keangnam Enterprises Co Ltd.
According to the indictment, amid a liquidity crisis at
Keangnam, Ban Ki-sang arranged for the company to hire his son
to broker a refinancing on the Landmark 72 building complex in
Hanoi, which cost over $1 billion to construct.
In March 2013, Bahn through an acquaintance met Harris, who
has called himself “curator of cool,” has counted Madonna among
his famous friends, and, according to the celebrity TV show
Access Hollywood, has sold dresses to Angelina Jolie.
Prosecutors said Harris told Bahn he could help get a deal
via his connections, which he said included members of a Middle
Eastern royal family, and offered to arrange the Landmark 72’s
sale to a sovereign wealth fund by bribing an official.
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, prosecutors said.
But prosecutors said Harris did not have any connection to
the official, and after the men sent $500,000 to his company,
Muse Creative Consulting LLC, to pay bribes as a middle man, he
stole the funds.
He spent the money on airfare, hotels, lavish meals,
furniture, rent for a Manhattan apartment and a six-month lease
for a penthouse in the fashionable Brooklyn neighborhood of
Williamsburg, the indictment said.
Bahn, 38, has pleaded not guilty. Ban Ki sang, 69, lives in
Seoul and remains at large.
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