The South China Morning Post reports that the flamboyant former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping has been found guilty, by a federal jury in New York, of offering millions of dollars in bribes to African officials.
Ho, a central figure for more than 25 years in Hong Kong politics, arts, and high society, was charged on “one count of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), four counts of violating the FCPA, one count of conspiring to commit international money laundering and one count of committing international money laundering,” according to the US Department of Justice – seven of the eight counts of bribery and money laundering brought against him.
The bribes occurred on behalf Chinese state-run conglomerate CEFC China Energy over access to oil rights in Chad and Uganda. He was charged with paying $2 million cash bribes to the President of Chad, and according to evidence presented at the trial arranged to have payments of $500,000 transfer ed to officials in Uganda.
Ho was acquitted of the Chad money-laundering charge, but convicted on all others by a jury that only deliberated for a few hours on Wednesday afternoon, New York time, according to the Post.
A high-profile politician, musician, Harvard graduate, ophthalmologist, and arts lover, he married Sibelle Hu a famous Taiwan-born actress, and led a rich, extraordinary life that in lots of ways reflected the turbulence of post-colonial Hong Kong.
Already a noted eye surgeon, according to the Post, it is commonly thought that Ho got his leg up into Hong Kong politics after performing surgery on top Chinese Communist Party leaders. Ho moved up the political ladder quickly, emerging as the city-state’s Home Affairs minister in 2002, a role he kept for almost five years through to 2007. Ho assumed a highly visible role in Hong Kong’s desperate days during the SARS crisis, when over 200 people died from the mysterious virus that gripped China, and most particularly Hong Kong.
He moved to the US to pursue a career as a surgeon, but threw himself into his other passion, music, where he became a noted violinist. Following his life in politics, Ho took over as a deputy secretary general in a think tank financed by CEFC.
“According to evidence presented at trial, Ho was involved in two bribery schemes to pay top officials of Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for CEFC China, a Shanghai-based multibillion-dollar conglomerate that operates internationally in multiple sectors, including oil, gas, and banking,” the DOJ explained in a press release. “At the center of both schemes was Ho, the head of a nongovernmental organization based in Hong Kong and Arlington, Virginia, the China Energy Fund Committee (the ‘CEFC NGO’), which held ‘Special Consultative Status’ with the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council. CEFC NGO was funded by CEFC China.”
He was arrested at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York in November 2017 and has been held since then. His trial lasted seven days, and Ho will be sentenced on March 14, 2019, where and could face up to five years for each count of bribery and 20 years in jail for each charge of money laundering.