A corruption case that had already shocked Asia took a surprising turn last month. Patrick Ho, a Chinese citizen and former official of Hong Kong, faces corruption charges in the United States. The U.S. accused him last year of trying to buy favors from African officials to help a Chinese company. The U.S. also accused a former Senegalese foreign minister, Cheikh Gadio, in connection with the crime.
But, last month U.S. federal lawyers dismissed Gadio from any charges.
In answer, Ho’s lawyers urged a federal judge in New York to release their client, too. It was the fifth time they have requested that Ho be released from jail while he waits for trial.
But their request was refused again. Government lawyers also announced Gadio had agreed to help them in their case against Ho.
Gadio’s help will provide strong evidence of Ho’s guilt, government lawyers told the court.
The case raises the issue of what some call an “open secret” – widespread bribery of foreign governments by Chinese companies seeking international business deals.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is currently operating a well-publicized campaign against corruption within China. However, Chinese officials have not yet brought any foreign bribery case against a Chinese company or business leader.
Patrick Ho and Cheikh Gadio were arrested in New York last November. Government lawyers for the U.S. say the men bribed African officials in order to help a large business called CEFC China Energy.
At the time, Ho led a non-governmental group that was supported financially by CEFC China Energy. Gadio was a member of Senegal’s parliament and also operated a business advising company.
Ho and Gadio reportedly planned to give $2 million to Chad’s President Idriss Deby. In return he reportedly would help CEFC China Energy enter into Chad’s rich energy business.
Ho also reportedly paid $500,000 to Sam Kutesa, the Ugandan foreign minister. That reported bribe was to help CEFC China Energy gain business agreements in Uganda’s financial and energy industries, lawyers claim.
The charges against Gadio were never presented to a grand jury. However, Ho was officially charged with several crimes of foreign bribery and money laundering.
Ho pleaded not guilty.
Corruption or charity
U.S. government lawyers have in the past charged American and European companies with paying bribes to Chinese officials. But they have never before tried someone from a Chinese company on charges of bribing foreign officials in exchange for business contracts.
At Ho’s trial on November 5, U.S. government lawyers will say payments promised or made to the African officials were bribes. Ho’s defense lawyers will call the money gifts to aid groups.
U.S. government lawyers recently gave the court some official documents about the case. They describe what Gadio will claim: Ho put $2 million in paper money in a gift box. Then Ho gave the box to Chadian President Idriss Deby. When Deby refused the money, Ho wrote a letter promising $2 million to aid efforts in Chad.
But, Gadio will add, Ho never asked what happened to the $2 million donation. Not asking about it, Gadio says, shows that Ho did not really care about aid work.
U.S. government lawyers also said recently that they will show how Ho was involved in other corrupt actions. They say Ho offered a bribe to John Ashe, a diplomat from Antigua and Barbuda.
And, they will say Ho was interested in doing business with Iran while the country was under U.S. restrictions. They say he also tried to organize sales of weapons to Libya and Qatar.
One of Ho’s top lawyers said he did not want to comment on the recent events related to the case.
The lawyer for Cheikh Gadio sent a note to VOA. Sean Hecker wrote that his client looked forward to continuing to work with U.S. officials before returning to Senegal.
Author: Masood Farivar