Former UN chief Ban Ki-moon kisses a boy as he arrives at Incheon International Airport.  Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-ji
Former UN chief Ban Ki-moon kisses a boy as he arrives at Incheon International Airport. Photo: Reuters/Kim Hong-ji

A New York fashion designer who calls himself the “curator of cool” was arrested in Mexico and sent to the United States where he is charged as part of a bribery case that has ensnared relatives of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, officials said on Saturday.

Malcolm Harris, a self-described arts and fashion consultant and blogger, was indicted in New York along with two of Ban’s relatives on Tuesday. He and his spouse were arrested two days later in San Miguel de Allende, Mexican media reported, citing a statement from the city government.

“The couple was detained in a joint operation between Mexican federal authorities and authorities of the United States, and at this time is in his country of origin,” the statement said.

US authorities arrested him on Friday night upon his arrival at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, and he was due to appear in court on Tuesday, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office said.

Prosecutors on Tuesday accused two of Ban’s relatives of engaging in a scheme to bribe a Middle Eastern official in connection with the attempted US$800 million sale of a building complex in Vietnam.

Harris double-crossed the others and walked away with US$500,000, prosecutors said.

Read: UN distances itself from Ban family graft scandal

The case has complicated Ban’s plans to run for president of South Korea after recently completing his term at the United Nations. Ban, who is not accused of wrongdoing, has said he knew nothing of the case and he plans to decide soon on his political future.

Harris had told Reuters in a Facebook message on Thursday he was hiring a lawyer and would not comment on the allegations or his location. “I would appreciate your patience,” he said.

Also charged in the indictment were Joo Hyun Bahn, a real estate broker who is Ban’s nephew, and his father, Ban Ki-sang. The latter is Ban Ki-moon’s brother, who was an executive at South Korean construction firm Keangnam Enterprises Co Ltd.

Bahn pleaded not guilty. The whereabouts of Ban Ki-sang were unknown.

Harris, 52, writes on cultural topics for the Huffington Post. His wedding, held on a fashion runway, was featured in 2012 on the Bravo TV network.

Fashion publications have said his famous friends include Madonna. Harris sold three dresses to Angelina Jolie, despite having twice hung up on her phone calls after mistakenly thinking it was a prankster, the celebrity TV show Access Hollywood reported in 2009.