Patrick Ho Chi-ping, a former Hong Kong home affairs minister has been found guilty by a federal jury in New York of offering millions of dollars in bribes to African officials, including Sam Kahamba Kutesa.
Kutesa was allegedly paid a $500,000 (about Shs 1.8 billion) bribe in exchange for obtaining ‘business advantages’ for a Chinese energy company, CEFC China Energy.
According to a statement by the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, Kutesa and Ho met in October 2014 at the UN in New York where the former had recently begun his term as the 69th President of the UN General Assembly.
“In or about February 2016 – after the Ugandan foreign minister had resumed his role as foreign minister of Uganda, and his in-law had been reelected as the President of Uganda – the Ugandan Foreign Minister solicited a payment from Ho, purportedly for a charitable foundation that he wished to launch,” the statement said.
It adds: “Ho caused a $500,000 payment to be wired to an account in Uganda designated by the Ugandan foreign minister, through a bank in New York, New York. In his communications, HO variously referred to this payment as a “donation” to the reelection campaign of the President of Uganda (who had already been reelected) and as a “donation” to “support” the Ugandan foreign minister.”
But the payment “was a bribe to obtain business advantages for the Energy Company in its efforts to secure contracts and ventures in Uganda’s financial and energy sectors,” the statement said.
Ho, and former Senegalese foreign minister Cheikh Gadio, were arrested in November 2017
On Wednesday, Ho was convicted by the New York Southern District Court jury on seven of eight counts of bribery and money laundering over oil rights for Chinese conglomerate CEFC China Energy, in Chad and Uganda. He now faces jail time in the United States.
Ho was unanimously acquitted of one money-laundering charge in Chad, as the jury had reservations about whether the money offered in this case came under US jurisdiction.
He will be sentenced on March 14. The maximum penalty for each bribery count is five years’ imprisonment and 20 years for money laundering, though he could be sentenced to concurrent terms.
Ho, 69, was Hong Kong’s home affairs minister from 2002 to 2007. He later became the deputy secretary general of a thin tank tkhat was financed by CEFC. Since then, he has been an advocate for the “Belt and Road Initiative”, China’s global trade strategy.
In November 2017, he was arrested at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York and charged with five counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and three counts of money laundering involving US$2.9 million in bribes given to state leaders and officials of Chad and Uganda.
Defendant turned witness Gadio, the middleman in talks on oil rights between CEFC and Chad President Idriss Déby, previously testified that Ho offered US$2 million wrapped in gift boxes to the leader during a visit to the African nation in December 2014.
Ho’s lawyer argued the payment was no more than a “charitable donation” to forge long-term relations with Chad.
The jury reached its decision after about three hours of deliberation. They asked the court for a copy of some key evidence, including the bank records of CEFC, and the think tank Ho led.
Ho’s legal team would not comment on whether he will appeal.
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