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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Nonprofit Head Guilty|of Bribing UN Chief

MANHATTAN (CN) - Wiping tears from her eyes, the former head of the nonprofit Global Sustainability Foundation told a federal judge on Wednesday that she bribed ex-U.N. General Assembly President John Ashe.

Sheri Yan, 60, said she completed only one year of a junior high school education before serving as CEO of the foundation tied late last year to a corruption scandal that so far has snared powerful diplomats, a Chinese billionaire and Yan's organization.

The foundation's director of finance, Heidi Park, pleaded guilty on Jan. 14.

Unlike Park, Yan has not agreed to cooperate with the government's continuing prosecution and investigation in copping a plea that could open her up to a 10-year prison sentence.

U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick noted that Yan was waiving her right not only to a trial, but a grand jury indictment with her plea.

When asked if she understood the rights she would lose, Yan's voice cracked as she responded in the affirmative, and her Mandarin translator passed her a tissue. She grabbed more to wipe her eyes when asked to describe what she had done to land her in court.

"Starting from around the springtime of 2012, me and other people agreed to and did pay money to John Ashe," the translation of her prepared statement began.

Prosecutors say that Yan and Park tried to "promote the bribery of the Antiguan prime minister," who received $100,000 from one of Ashe's accounts as president of the General Assembly.

Antigua's prime minister at the time was Baldwin Spencer, and has not yet been named by prosecutors.

Ashe, who was born in Antigua, allegedly accepted $300,000 to submit billionaire developer Ng Lap Seng's proposal for a U.N.-sponsored multibillion-dollar conference center in Macau.

Under the terms of her plea, Yan will not appeal any prison sentence that falls within sentencing guidelines of 70 to 87 months. Her sentencing is scheduled for April 29.

She also consented to a $300,000 money judgment and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice of what she gained from the offense.

Following today's plea, four defendants still face prosecution: Ashe; the billionaire Ng; Ng's assistant Jeff Yin; and diplomat Francis Lorenzo, who was a deputy permanent representative for the United Nations to the Dominican Republic.

They will return to court on Thursday to discuss Lorenzo's bid for diplomatic immunity, the other defendants' complaints of pretrial delay, and the prosecution's continuing grand jury investigation.

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