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Foundation Leader Gets 20 Months For Bribing Late Former UN General Assembly President

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A foundation leader was sentenced to a year and eight months in prison Friday, after admitting to paying more than $800,000 in bribes to a former UN General Assembly president.

Shiwei Yan, 60, the co-founder and former chief executive officer of the Global Sustainability Foundation, pleaded guilty in January to offering the bribes to John Ashe when he served as General Assembly president. She was sentenced by Manhattan U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick.

"As she admitted in court at her guilty plea, Shiwei Yan bribed the President of the UN General Assembly with hundreds of thousands of dollars to further private business interests," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a news release. "For her role in corrupting the United Nations, Yan will serve time in a federal prison."

Prosecutors said beginning in April 2012, Yan, along with co-defendant Heidi Hong Piao, arranged for more than $800,000 in bribes to Ashe and one or more other Antiguan officials to benefit several Chinese businessmen, prosecutors said.

The first bribe arranged by Yan and Piao was $300,000 on behalf of a Chinese media executive, prosecutors said. In exchange, Ashe said he would "start the conversation" with Antiguan officials – including the then-prime minister – about the executive's interest, prosecutors said.

Ashe shared a portion of the payment with one or more Antiguan officials, and Yan requested and received an appointment as an adviser to Ashe, prosecutors said.

Yan and Piao also paid Ashe $20,000 a month for his service as the Honorary Chairman of the Global Sustainability Foundation, then known as the Global Sustainable Development Foundation, which was founded by the two defendants, prosecutors said.

In September 2013, after Ashe became his one-year term as the president of the UN General Assembly, Yan and Piao arranged for another Chinese businessman to send Ashe $100,000, prosecutors said. In exchange, Yan arranged for Piao to travel with Ashe and the businessman to meet with Antiguan officials about a business deal with a Chinese security company with which the businessman was involved, prosecutors said.

Yan sent Ashe another $100,000, and the Antiguan government then signed a "memorandum of understanding" with the Chinese security company, prosecutors said.

Yan and Piao also arranged for Ashe to get $200,000 in exchange for attending a private conference in China in his official capacity. The conference was hosted by a Chinese real estate developer, prosecutors said.

Yan and Piao also arranged for Ashe to receive tens of thousands of dollars in suits and clothes, prosecutors said.

As he imposed the sentence, Judge Broderick said, "To those bent on perverting decision-making" through bribery, "this simply will not be tolerated… there are consequences to these actions."

Piao has also pleaded guilty in the case, but has not been sentenced.

Ashe himself was charged last year with tax counts in a broader bribery case, but he died in June.

An autopsy revealed that Ashe died in a weightlifting accident when a barbell he was lifting from a bench dropped on his neck, the Associated Press reported at the time.

Prosecutors claimed Ashe, most recently of Dobbs Ferry, was at the center of a vast bribery conspiracy from 2011 through 2014 in which Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng and other businesspeople paid him over $1 million in bribes to support a multibillion-dollar UN-sponsored conference center that Ng hoped to build as his legacy in Macau, where he lived.

(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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