A former Hong Kong politician faces jail time in the US after being convicted of scheming to offer millions of dollars in bribes to African leaders, through contacts made at the United Nations.
Patrick Ho Chi-ping, 69, was on Tuesday found guilty by a federal jury in New York on seven of eight counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering. He was acquitted on one count of international money laundering.
The maximum penalty for each charge ranges from five to 20 years in jail.
Ho, who pleaded not guilty, will be sentenced on March 15.
The seven-day trial began a year after Ho was arrested at JFK Airport on November 18, 2017.
His lawyers branded the case a bribery trial “with no bribes.” They did not dispute that Ho had made the payments, including giving $2 million to the President of Chad in gift boxes, but told the court the payments were documented, charitable donations intended to foster goodwill for the Chinese energy conglomerate he represented.
Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Patrick Ho now stands convicted of scheming to pay millions in bribes to foreign leaders in Chad and Uganda, all as part of his efforts to corruptly secure unfair business advantages for a multi-billion-dollar Chinese energy company.
“Ho’s repeated attempts to corrupt foreign leaders were not business as usual, but criminal efforts to undermine the fairness of international markets.”
The Chad case
A Harvard-educated eye doctor married to a Taiwanese actress, Ho was Hong Kong Home Affairs secretary from 2002 to 2007.
After leaving office, Ho became secretary general of the China Energy Fund Committee, an NGO which had consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The NGO was fully funded by CEFC China Energy, a Shanghai-based multi-billion-dollar conglomerate whose founder, Ye Jianming, was rumored to have ties to the Chinese government.
Officially, the NGO’s mission was to serve as “a high-end strategic think tank” on energy. In reality, Ho used the United Nations to befriend world leaders and strike deals for CEFC China Energy.
In the first scheme, Ho engineered a meeting in the Sahara Desert with Idriss Deby, the President of Chad. He subsequently offered Deby $2 million to secure oil rights from the Chadian government in 2014.
Ho orchestrated the Chad bribery attempt through Cheikh Gadio, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, who had a personal relationship with Deby. Ho and Gadio met through the United Nations.
Gadio was also arrested last year but charges against him were dropped after he agreed to testify against Ho. Gadio told the court that Deby had felt insulted and disrespected by the bribe.
“Why do they believe all African people are corrupt?” Gadio said, quoting Deby’s reaction after finding money in the boxes.
Last year, the government of Chad said in a statement: “Faced with this umpteenth false allegation, the government of Chad formally refutes this shameful fabrication.”
The Uganda deal
In February 2016, Ho met Sam Kutesa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Uganda, who had recently completed his term as President of the UN General Assembly.
In New York, the pair discussed forming “a strategic partnership” between Uganda and CEFC China Energy for various business ventures. A $500,000 payment was subsequently wired to Kutesa through the New York banking system.
The government of Uganda had said in a statement that it was “erroneous” to say Kutesa was involved.