Ex-Hong Kong Minister Released After Serving CEFC China Sentence
Patrick Ho Chi-ping, a former Hong Kong minister who was convicted in the U.S. of bribing African officials on behalf of notorious conglomerate CEFC China Energy Co. Ltd., was released Monday after serving his jail term in New York.
Ho, 71, former head of the Hong Kong Home Affairs Bureau, was sentenced to 36 months in jail and fined $400,000 in March 2019 for violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and for money laundering and conspiracy. He was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in November 2017.
Ho was freed early after counting the time he spent behind bars before his conviction and a further reduction for good behavior, the South China Morning Post reported. He was deported back to Hong Kong after release due to passport expiration, the paper reported.
The ophthalmologist-turned-politician was found guilty of paying millions of dollars in bribes to top officials in Chad and Uganda, partly through the American banking system, in exchange for business favors for the now-defunct CEFC. Ho used a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) to hide his criminal intentions, according to U.S. prosecutors.
The fall of Ho became a trigger that led to investigations by Chinese regulators that brought to light an extensive graft network surrounding CEFC and its secretive founder and Chairman Ye Jianming. The Shanghai-based energy-to-finance conglomerate was one of the high-flying Chinese companies that came onto regulators’ radar screens after amassing sprawling assets abroad through debt-backed investments.
Ye was placed under investigation on suspicion of economic crimes in early 2018 and hasn't been convicted. Investigations surrounding him and CEFC have brought down a number of high-profile officials, including Wang Sanyun, former Gansu provincial party chief, and Hu Huaibang, former head of China Development Bank.
CEFC was under regulatory pressure and mired in financial woes since Ye’s fall. It missed billions of yuan in debt payments, and its massive deal to take a $9.1 billion stake in Russian oil major Rosneft collapsed. A court ruling in late March showed that CEFC was declared bankrupt by a Shanghai court. Several of its subsidiaries were also declared bankrupt in the same ruling.
Ho, who served as Hong Kong’s home affairs chief from 2002 to 2007, was the deputy secretary general of China Energy Fund Committee, an organization fully funded by CEFC.
According to U.S. Justice Department documents, Ho in 2014 used his contacts at the United Nations to meet Ugandan officials and former Senegalese Foreign Minister Cheikh Gadio, who was close to the president of Chad. Through Gadio, Ho later offered Chadian President Idriss Déby a $2 million bribe hidden in gift boxes in exchange for helping CEFC to secure oil exploration rights in Chad.
In May 2016, Ho used the CEFC-funded NGO to wire $500,000 to the Ugandan foreign minister through banks in New York, according to the Justice Department. He also schemed to bribe Uganda’s president and offered to provide two Ugandan officials with “additional corrupt benefits by ‘partnering’ with them in future joint ventures in Uganda,” documents showed.
A federal jury found Ho guilty on seven of eight counts of bribery and money-laundering over oil rights for CEFC in Chad and Uganda. Five of the charges against Ho were violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits paying foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Since 1998, the law has also been applied to foreign companies and individuals who further the act of bribery within the U.S. or through the U.S. financial system.
Timmy Shen contributed to the story
Contact reporter Han Wei (firstname.lastname@example.org) and editor Bob Simison (email@example.com)
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