Sunday, July 31, 2016
Woman Involved in U.N. Corruption Case Is Given 20 Months in Prison
A woman who bribed a top United Nations official to support business ventures was sentenced to 20 months in prison by a judge who said bribery schemes do “substantial damage” to the international organization's image.
Sheri Yan was sentenced on Friday by Judge Vernon Broderick of the United States District Court in Manhattan after Ms. Yan pleaded guilty to a bribery charge in January.
“There is substantial damage done to the U.N., and the image of the U.N. itself,” Judge Broderick said. “Whenever members of institutions accept or are given bribes, it diminishes that institution."
Ms. Yan admitted to having paid more than $800,000 in bribes to John W. Ashe, the former president of the General Assembly, who died several weeks ago in an accident at home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. He was awaiting trial after pleading not guilty to a tax charge in the case.
“I will be forever punishing myself,” Ms. Yan, 60, said. In tears, she added, “I am very, very, very sorry.”
Judge Broderick rejected a request to keep Ms. Yan out of prison. Her lawyer, Christine Chung, cited Ms. Yan’s difficult childhood and “the shame and dishonor and the ripping down of her whole life” that resulted after her arrest. Prosecutors sought a nearly six-year prison term.
Ms. Chung described Mr. Ashe as a predator, seeking money at every turn.
"He had his hand out constantly,” she said.
Ms. Chung said Ms. Yan, who was born in the Anhui Province in a rural part of China, was separated from her brother and their parents for six years in 1966 when her father and mother were forced into labor during the Cultural Revolution.
She came to the United States in 1987 with $400 sewn into her clothes, and worked as a nanny and home attendant in Washington D.C., where she met her husband, Ms. Chung said. She became a naturalized United States citizen in 2001.
The lawyer added that Ms. Yan was working as a consultant when she met Mr. Ashe in early 2012 in Hong Kong, where he offered to make her an adviser when he became president of the General Assembly. By spring 2012, Ms. Yan was passing bribes to Mr. Ashe.
Prosecutors said funds for the bribes came largely from Ng Lap Seng, a real estate developer from Macau. Ms. Yan’s plea agreement said she gave bribes to Mr. Ashe to persuade officials in Antigua to join business contracts with foreign companies. At the time, Mr. Ashe was an ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda.
Mr. Ng, a billionaire, has pleaded not guilty to charges and is awaiting a January trial.