Ho heads to court on bribery, money-laundering charges

The prosecution of former Hong Kong home affairs secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping has officially begun after the US Department of Justice filed a formal indictment against him for bribery.

Ho, 68, is accused of leading a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme between 2014 and 2017, when he allegedly helped a Chinese energy firm gain exclusive oil rights in Africa.

Expected to appear in court as early as this week, he faces eight charges – five relating to bribery in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and three involving money laundering. If convicted, he could be jailed for up to 20 years.

“Ho agreed to pay and offer money and other things of value to foreign officials in Africa, including the president of Chad, the minister of foreign affairs of Uganda, and president of Uganda, to obtain business for a Shanghai-based energy conglomerate,” the indictment read. 

The company, which was not identified, is believed to be CEFC China Energy, a rising star in China’s energy industry.

According to the 18-page document, Ho wired nearly US$1 million (HK$7.8 million) through the New York banking system. Some deals were even reached in the halls of the United Nations.

A complaint was first made onNovember 16, and Ho was arrested four days later, along with Cheikh Gadio, the former foreign minister of Senegal.

Without naming Gadio, the indictment said a “former Senegalese foreign minister” advised Ho to “reward” the president of Chad with a “nice financial package” in November 2014.

In just two months, Ho pledged US$2 million to be extended by the energy company to Chad’s president.

In the following year, Ho wired two payments of US$200,000 from Hong Kong, through New York, to a Dubai account allegedly designated by Gadio.

In 2016, Ho remitted US$500,000 in a similar matter to an account supposedly designated by a Ugandan foreign minister.

The indictment was filed by Joon Kim, US attorney, and Sandra Moser, acting fraud section chief of the department’s criminal division.

Both Chad president Idriss Deby and Ugandan foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa have strongly denied the allegations.

Ho remains behind bars at the Metropolitan Correctional Center opposite the court buildings.

Ho was denied bail by Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman on December 1, saying she believes he has “reasons that would give him means to flee.”

“[There was a high risk of flight] due to the fact the defendant lacks any ties to the community, and has strong ties to other countries,” Freeman said.

Court records show that Ho is represented by lawyers Edward Young Kyu Kim and Paul Krieger, experts in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Ho’s arrest comes as Russia’s state-run oil group Rosneft is about to supply CEFC China Energy with almost 61 million tonnes of oil over the next five year from 2018.

Ho’s wife Sibelle Hu Huizhong quoted the Global Times, which reported an anonymous CEFC executive saying the arrest may “have a significant impact on Sino-Russian strategic relations and energy cooperation.”

The Standard | Wednesday, 20 December, 2017