Foundation founder's guilty plea: I helped fund U.N. official's extravagant life

Flags fly outside United Nations headquarters in New York.

Story highlights

  • Shiwei Yan, founder of the Global Sustainability Foundation, admits in court of bribing a U.N. colleague
  • Prosecutors cite $30,000 basketball court, $59,000 in tailored clothing and $54,000 in Rolexes in the case

New York (CNN)She served as the CEO of a New York-based foundation with noble goals: endorsing "the fundamental right of human beings to live in dignity and free of poverty."

But now Shiwei Yan has admitted in court of bribing a U.N. colleague and funding his lifestyle full of Rolexes, BMWs, tailored suits and even an in-home basketball court.
Yan, founder of the Global Sustainability Foundation, pleaded guilty Wednesday to bribery charges, admitting to facilitating more than $800,000 in illicit payments to former General Assembly President John Ashe on behalf of Chinese executives for business interests.
    Yan is the second person to plead guilty to involvement in a ring that funneled over $1.3 million to Ashe.
    Though the maximum sentence is 10 years, the parties in the plea deal agreed that Yan will serve no more than seven and a quarter years in prison, according to court documents.

    How the case unfolded

    Beginning in 2012, Yan and her former finance director, Heidi Hong Piao, represented Chinese business people who were seeking to invest in Antiguan government officials or special favors that promoted their ventures in that country, according to a news release from the U.S. District Attorney's Office in Manhattan.
    Ashe, 61, who also served as Antigua and Barbuda's permanent representative at the United Nations, served as the U.N. General Assembly's President from September 2013 to September 2014.
    A sum of $100,000 -- a portion of the initial installment of money Yan and Piao helped transfer from a Chinese media executive to Ashe -- even made its way to the Prime Minister of Antigua, according to the news release.
    Yan and Piao also made Ashe the "honorary chairman" of their New York-based organization that provided its own monetary compensation of $20,000 a month, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
    Piao pleaded guilty to bribery charges related to these schemes last week, a U.S. District Attorney's Office spokeswoman told CNN.
    Prosecutors said the scheme helped Ashe afford a $30,000 basketball court in his home, $59,000 in tailored clothing, $54,000 in Rolexes, $40,000 in BMW payments and $69,000 to join a vacation club.
    Ashe, who is facing tax fraud charges, has pleaded not guilty.
      The government of Antigua and Barbuda issued a statement on Ashe's arrest, noting that the charges related to his presidency of the General Assembly.