Macau billionaire Ng Lap-seng bribery case: Second suspect pleads guilty in New York case

Foundation chief executive Sheri Yan admits she participated in scheme to bribe former UN General Assembly president

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 January, 2016, 10:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 January, 2016, 10:04pm

US prosecutors who accuse a billionaire Macau businessman with top-level connections to Beijing and Washington of bribing a former senior United Nations official have secured a second guilty plea in the wider case.

Chinese-American Sheri Yan, who heads a New York-based foundation implicated in the alleged racket, pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to bribe former UN General Assembly president John Ashe to advance the interests of various Chinese businesses.

READ MORE: US secures first guilty plea in UN bribery case linked to Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng

The guilty plea from Yan – who was chief executive of the Global Sustainability Foundation – comes less than a week after the organisation’s former finance director, Heidi Hong Piao, admitted wrongdoing.

Unlike that of Piao, Yan’s guilty plea in a federal court in New York did not come with an agreement to cooperate with the United States authorities in their ongoing investigation into claims that illicit payments were funnelled to Ashe.

That investigation alleges Ashe received US$500,000 in bribes from Ng through intermediaries – former UN deputy ambassador for the Dominican Republic Francis Lorenzo and Ng’s assistant, Jeff Yin.

Ashe and Lorenzo attended a forum in Macau hosted by Ng late last year, just weeks before Ng and Yin were arrested in New York. Ng, Yin and Lorenzo deny the charges against them.

Among the delegates at the forum was Ng – who is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – Ashe and Lorenzo.

Earlier this week, Ng’s lawyer , Benjamin Brafman, played down the significance of Piao’s guilty plea to Ng .

READ MORE: Ex-UN General Assembly president, billionaire Macau real estate developer and four others charged for bribery

On Wednesday, Yan admitted to one count of bribery in connection with illicit payments made to Ashe.

Choking back tears, she admitted that beginning in 2012, she agreed with others to pay money to Ashe, who was also the UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda, to influence officials in Antigua and the United Nations to support business interests.

“While I was doing these things, I knew that they were wrong,” Yan said through a Putonghua interpreter. She is set to be sentenced on April 29.

Prosecutors allege that Ashe accepted US$1.3 million in bribes from Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the United Nations and Antigua.

Those bribes included over US$800,000 from three businessmen that were arranged through Yan and Piao, prosecutors said.

Ashe, 61, has only been charged with tax fraud, but prosecutors say they are likely to bring further charges.