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Press Release

Former Head Of Foundation Sentenced To 20 Months In Prison For Bribing Then-Ambassador And President Of United Nations General Assembly

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that SHIWEI YAN, a/k/a “Sheri Yan,” the co-founder and former chief executive officer of the Global Sustainability Foundation, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court today to 20 months in prison for paying more than $800,000 in bribes to John W. Ashe (“Ashe”), the late former Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda (“Antigua”) to the United Nations (“UN”) and 68th President of the UN General Assembly.  Yan pled guilty in January 2016, and was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick.

U.S. Attorney Bharara stated: “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.  For her role in corrupting the United Nations, Yan will serve time in a federal prison.”

According to the Complaint, Superseding Information, information presented in connection with sentencing, and other publicly available materials:

Starting in approximately April 2012, YAN, along with co-defendant Heidi Hong Piao, a/k/a “Heidi Park” (“Piao”), agreed to and did arrange for more than $800,000 in bribe payments to Ashe in exchange for official actions by Ashe and one or more other Antiguan officials to benefit several Chinese businessmen.  Piao also pled guilty for her participation in the scheme, but has not yet been sentenced.

The initial bribe payment arranged by YAN and Piao was a $300,000 payment on behalf of a Chinese media executive referred to as “CC-1” in the Complaint.  In exchange for this payment, Ashe agreed to “start the conversations” with Antiguan officials, including the then-Prime Minister, concerning CC-1’s interests.  With YAN’s knowledge, Ashe shared a portion of the bribe payment with one or more Antiguan officials.  YAN also requested and received an official appointment from Ashe as an adviser.

In August 2013, YAN and Piao began paying Ashe approximately $20,000 per month, purportedly for his forthcoming service as the “Honorary Chairman” of a non-governmental organization, the Global Sustainable Development Foundation, later known as the Global Sustainability Foundation (“GSF”).  GSF was founded by YAN and Piao and purported to promote the UN’s sustainable development goals.  YAN sent these monthly payments from a Chinese company she operated to personal accounts of Ashe.

In September 2013, Ashe formally began his one-year term as President of the UN General Assembly.  YAN and Piao thereafter arranged for another Chinese businessman, referred to as “CC-2” in the Complaint, to send Ashe $100,000.  Approximately one month after this payment, YAN arranged for Piao to travel with Ashe and CC-2 to meet with Antiguan officials about a business deal for a Chinese security company (the “Chinese Security Company”) affiliated with CC-2.  After YAN sent Ashe another $100,000, the government of Antigua signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Chinese Security Company. 

YAN and Piao also arranged for ASHE to be paid $200,000 in exchange for attending a private conference in China in Ashe’s official capacity, hosted by a Chinese real estate developer identified as “CC-3” in the Complaint. 

During the scheme, YAN and Piao also arranged for Ashe to receive tens of thousands of dollars in custom suits and clothes.

In imposing 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.”

*                      *                      *

YAN, 60, a naturalized United States citizen who resided principally in China prior to her arrest, was charged in October 2015 along with Piao, Francis Lorenzo (then-Deputy Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic to the UN), Ashe, Ng Lap Seng, and Jeff C. Yin.  Piao and Lorenzo subsequently pled guilty to bribery, money laundering, and other charges.  Charges against Ng Lap Seng and Jeff C. Yin, who are scheduled to proceed to trial on January 23, 2017, remain pending, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.[1]

In addition to her prison term, YAN was sentenced to two years of supervised release, was fined $12,500, and was ordered to forfeit $300,000.

U.S. Attorney Bharara praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, which jointly conducted this investigation, and noted that the investigation is ongoing. 

This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Richenthal, Janis M. Echenberg, and Douglas S. Zolkind are in charge of the prosecution.


[1]             Charges against Ashe were dismissed following his death in June 2016.

Updated July 29, 2016

Public Corruption
Press Release Number: 16-212