Date
12 December 2018
Patrick Ho is being tried for violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, international money laundering and conspiracy at a New York district court. Photo: CNSA
Patrick Ho is being tried for violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, international money laundering and conspiracy at a New York district court. Photo: CNSA

Ho disguised bribes as donations, say US prosecutors

US federal prosecutors said Hong Kong’s former home affairs secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping had sought to land lucrative business deals and oil rights in Chad and Uganda for a Chinese energy conglomerate through bribery. 

On the first day of trial of the case against Ho at a New York district court, the prosecution told the jury – 12 jurors and three substitutes – that Ho disguised the money given to high officials of the two African nations as charitable donations, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Ho, 69, was arrested in New York in November last year on charges of participating in a “multi-year, multimillion-dollar” bribery.

The US Department of Justice had said evidence showed 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 the country without international competition, and a US$500,000 bribe was paid to an account designated by the minister of foreign affairs of Uganda, who once served as president of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

According to the prosecution, Ho gained access to the officials through a non-governmental organization led by him and funded by the oil and gas conglomerate CEFC China Energy.

Operating an NGO allowed Ho to pass himself off as a humanitarian and offered bribes worth millions of dollars in exchange for contracts for the Chinese company, Associated Press cited Paul Hayden, a US Justice Department trial attorney, as telling the jury.

Some deals were supposedly arranged in the halls of the United Nations.

Ho’s lawyer told the court aht the multimillion-dollar payments that Ho was accused of having made to the officials were both charitable and above board, adding that the defendant asked for nothing in return but only intended to generate goodwill and long-term relationships.

The attorney said the prosecution was trying to make a case for bribery but there was no bribery involved at all. “This is a bribery case with no bribe,” Benjamin Rosenberg, Ho’s lawyer, said in his opening statement.

Ho was charged with violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, international money laundering and conspiracy.

He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

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TL/JC/CG

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