Shiwei Yan, founder of the Global Sustainability Foundation, entered a guilty plea on Wednesday to charges of funneling $800,000 in bribes to former United Nations General Assembly President John Ashe.
“Yan is the second person to plead guilty to involvement in a ring that funneled over $1.3 million to Ashe,” CNN reports. The first was her former finance director, Heidi Hong Piao.
Although Yan’s New York-based foundation had what CNN describes as the ostensibly “noble goal” of endorsing “the fundamental right of human beings to live in dignity and free of poverty,” it was used by Chinese business people looking for special concessions in Antigua. Antigua’s permanent representative to the U.N. was John Ashe, who became President of the General Assembly in 2013.
Among other sweeteners, Ashe was made an honorary chairman of the Global Sustainability Foundation, with a handsome stipend of $20,000 per month. That kind of money could have made a lot of human beings free of poverty, in many parts of the world.
But that compensation was just the tip of the iceberg, and Ashe did not seem inclined to use his windfall to make anyone free of poverty, either. Instead, he used the money for “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.”
Although Yan and Piao lodged guilty pleas, Ashe did not, and his lawyer expressed confidence he would win acquittal.
CNN notes he is also facing tax fraud charges “in an alleged conspiracy involving five others, including a billionaire Chinese businessman and a former deputy U.N. ambassador from the Dominican Republic,” as well as under-reporting the value of his home by $1.2 million. The billionaire Chinese businessman, Ng Lap Seng, allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes to Ashe in an effort to get the contract for a multi-billion dollar conference center for the United Nations in Macau.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, through a spokesman, declared last October that he was “shocked and deeply troubled” by the allegations against Ashe, which he said “struck at the heart of the integrity of the United Nations.”