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Jury convicts ex-Hong Kong official of FCPA offenses, money laundering

Hong Kong's former home secretary was convicted by a Manhattan federal jury Wednesday for bribing African officials on behalf of a Chinese energy company.

Patrick Ho, 69, was found guilty after a one-week trial in the Southern District of New York.

The jury deliberated just one day. It convicted Ho on seven counts -- one count of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, four counts of violating the FCPA, one count of conspiring to commit international money laundering, and one count of committing international money laundering. 

The jury acquitted Ho on one money-laundering count. He had denied all eight counts against him.

Ho -- Hong Kong’s home affairs secretary from 2002 to 2007 -- has been in federal custody since his arrest in November last year. He offered to post a $10 million bond but was denied bail because of the flight risk.

He now faces up to five years in prison on each FCPA-related count, and up to 20 years in prison for each money-laundering count. Sentencing is set for March 14, 2019.

The DOJ said Ho, with help from his co-defendant Cheikh Gadio, offered $2 million in bribes to the president of Chad.

Gadio, 62, is the former foreign minister of Senegal. He acted as a witness for the DOJ under a non-prosecution agreement, evidence at Ho's trial showed.

A lawyer for Ho, Edward Kim, told the jury there was "something rotten" about Gadio. He lied from the witness stand so that he could get "a free pass,” Kim said.

Ho also paid a $500,000 bribe to Sam Kutesa, the minister of foreign affairs of Uganda. Kutesa had recently completed his term as the president of the UN General Assembly.

In April, Ho asked the trial court judge to dismiss some of the FCPA counts against him. He argued that the DOJ shouldn't be allowed to bring the same charges under alternative theories of jurisdiction. He also asked the court to toss evidence -- text messages and emails –– that came from a search of his iPad and cell phone.

Judge Loretta Preska rejected Ho's motion to dismiss the charges and to exclude the digital evidence.

Ho is also known as Chi Ping Patrick Ho and He Zhiping.

The DOJ alleged that an NGO Ho leads -- called the China Energy Fund Committee or CEFC -- was used to funnel bribes to the officials in Africa. The NGO is based in Hong Kong and Virginia.

CEFC is fully funded by a Shanghai-based oil and gas company called CEFC China Energy Company Limited.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.