NEW YORK—A prominent Hong Kong businessman was sentenced to three years in prison on March 25 and fined $400,000 after he was convicted of paying bribes to the presidents of two African countries.
U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska sentenced Dr. Chi Ping Patrick Ho, who is also an ophthalmologist and was once Hong Kong’s home affairs secretary.
Ho was convicted in December of paying bribes to the presidents of Chad and Uganda in a scheme to secure oil rights for a Shanghai-based energy conglomerate known as CEFC China Energy.
Lawyers for Ho insisted at trial that the payments to the presidents were legitimate charitable donations. The payments included $2 million in gift boxes delivered to Chad’s president in 2014.
Ho was charged in New York City by authorities who cited meetings and wire transfers in Manhattan related to the bribes.
Prosecutors had recommended Ho serve five years. Defense lawyers said his 16 months behind bars as a model inmate were enough.
Defense lawyers said in a pre-sentence submission that Ho “deeply regrets” his actions.
They said their client has tutored fellow inmates at a downtown Manhattan lockup on subjects “ranging from geography to personal finance.”
During a weeklong trial, prosecutors said Ho approached the presidents of Chad and Uganda on behalf of CEFC China Energy after growing accustomed to using money to entice foreign officials to help the company expand its business.
Prosecutors say the Ugandan scheme emerged at the United Nations in New York when Uganda’s foreign minister served as president of the U.N. General Assembly.
During the case, prosecutors also alleged that Ho helped broker arms deals to Chad, Qatar, and Libya. Documents filed last October show emails in which Ho discusses using the company’s connections to arrange arms purchases for those countries.
In an email from March 2015, Ho discussed selling weapons to Libya and South Sudan, both countries are under arms embargoes.
Ho asked the other party, “Find a way to pass them onto me and we can execute that right away.”
Then the other party answered: “Attached. [We] have the funding and processing mechanisms in place. If it works nice, there will be much more. Also for S. Sudan.”
The prosecution also alleged that Ho was involved in a scheme to help Iran get around sanctions by accessing funds from a Chinese bank.
In an October 2014 email, Ho said he was going to Beijing to visit the CEFC chairman for business related to Iran. He wrote about how the Iranian government held funds in a Chinese bank and wished to buy precious metals.
“The Iranian agent is looking for a Chinese company to act as a middleman in these transactions and will pay commission,” Ho wrote. “[They] have a strong urge to establish a relationship with us regarding oil and other products.”
CEFC is a private company that typically does business in the state-dominated fields of oil and gas and financial services. Its founder, Ye Jianming, has been missing since March 2018 and is reportedly under investigation by Chinese authorities. Chinese state-affiliated media Caixin reported in March that CEFC was linked to the People’s Liberation Army.
By Larry Neumeister. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.