The United States has charged Hong Kong’s former home affairs secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping and the ex-foreign minister of Senegal with involvement in a “multi-year, multimillion-dollar scheme” to bribe high-level officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for contracts for a Chinese oil and gas company, the US justice Department said Monday.
Some deals were supposedly arranged in the halls of the United Nations.
Ho, 68, and Cheikh Gadio, 61, were charged with violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, international money laundering and conspiracy, with possible jail sentences of as much as 20 years, the department said in a statement.
It said Gadio, a Senegalese former top diplomat, was arrested in New York on Friday. Ho, who heads a non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong and Virginia, was arrested on Saturday.
“Wiring almost a million dollars through New York’s banking system in furtherance of their corrupt schemes, the defendants allegedly sought to generate business through bribes paid to the president of Chad and the Ugandan foreign minister,” Joon Kim, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, was quoted as saying in the statement.
“These individuals allegedly offered millions of dollars in bribes to foreign officials, disguised as charitable donations, in order to seek business advantages. One used his position with a United Nations Council to further this scheme,” said Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Angel Melendez.
The company was not identified in the announcement or the complaint filed in New York federal district court.
The Justice Department said a US$2 million bribe was paid to Chad’s president, who then provided the company with an opportunity to obtain valuable oil rights in Chad without international competition, and a US$500,000 bribe was paid to an account designated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda, who had recently completed his term as president of the UN General Assembly.
Ho also provided Uganda’s president and foreign minister with gifts and promises of future benefits – including a share in the profits of a potential joint venture, authorities said in the statement.
The department said Gadio was the go-between and was paid US$400,000 by Ho via wire transfers through New York.
The Justice Department accused Ho of being involved with bribes and promises of future benefits to Uganda’s foreign minister in exchange for help in obtaining business advantages for the Chinese company.
Ho was ordered detained after appearing in court on Monday, the Justice Department statement said. It said Gadio appeared before a judge on Saturday, but it did not say if he was detained.
Ho’s attorney, Ed Kim, of Krieger Kim & Lewin LLP, declined to comment to Reuters.
Ho is the secretary general of a Hong Kong-based organization called China Energy Fund Committee, which describes itself on its website as “a think tank registered and anchored in Hong Kong, devoted to public diplomacy, with special emphasis on energy and culture”.
Ho was Hong Kong Home Affairs secretary from 2002 to 2007, and served for several years on the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Gadio was Senegal’s foreign minister from 2000 to 2009.
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