UPDATE 1-U.S. secures first guilty plea in U.N. bribery case
(Adds details on court hearing, background on case)
By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK Jan 14 (Reuters) - A former finance director at a New York foundation accused of participating in a scheme to bribe a former United Nations General Assembly president on Thursday became the first defendant to plead guilty in the case.
The guilty plea by Heidi Hong Piao to five counts, including bribery and money laundering, is a major break for U.S. prosecutors examining an alleged conspiracy to bribe John Ashe, the former General Assembly president.
Piao, 52, who was also known as Heidi Park, agreed to cooperate with authorities as she admitted to having agreed with others to funnel illegal payments to Ashe, who was also the U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda.
"The monetary payments were made with the intent of influencing John Ashe, including in his official capacity," she said in Manhattan federal court.
Piao, who was finance director at the Global Sustainability Foundation, was among six people charged in the case last October.
Prosecutors allege that Ashe, the U.N. General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014, accepted $1.3 million of bribes from Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the U.N. and Antigua.
Those bribes included over $800,000 from three businessmen that were arranged through Piao and Sheri Yan, who was the Global Sustainability Foundation's chief executive, prosecutors said. Continuación...