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UN Denies Giving Philanthropist Award to Chinese Billionaire

Recycling magnate Chen Guangbiao sings to the media and his guests from the New York City Rescue Mission at The Loeb Boathouse restaurant in New York, June 25, 2014.

The United Nations says it had nothing to do with giving a philanthropist award to Chen Guangbiao, who received the honor at a recent high-profile lunch he hosted for New York City's homeless.

In an e-mail interview with VOA, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the United Nations secretary-general, said the award "was not sponsored by the United Nations in any way, nor do we approve or condone the handing over of such a certificate. From what I can see, the certificate is not authentic."

The award, which calls the Chinese billionaire "The World's Most Prominent Philanthropist," but also errantly refers to the U.N. as "United Nation," was given during a lunch last month in which Chen promised a free meal and $300 to 1,000 homeless people in New York. The event ended badly when only five people were given the money and the rest was donated to a charity.

The award was presented to Chen by Patrick Donohue, head of the China Foundation for Global Partnership.

Dujarric said the U.N. officials met with Donohue at a forum in 2013, but the world body has not collaborated with his group further. The spokesman added that the U.N. logo displayed on Chen's award was placed without the knowledge or approval of the world body.

The China Foundation has responded to the controversy on its website, saying Chen's donation was not related to the award and that he "provided the Foundation with a pre-made certificate which had the United Nations logo and asked us to present to him."

Chen has acknowledged he donated $30,000 to the group, but has been quoted as saying he may have been tricked and wants his money returned.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.