Lawyers for Patrick Ho have submitted 149 letters to a US court asking for mercy for the former Hong Kong top official, saying that he “deeply regrets” his actions in a multi-million dollar bribery scheme in Africa.

In December, a New York court found the former home affairs secretary guilty of seven counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering. Ho was alleged to have acted on behalf of a top Chinese energy company, and laundered money for bribes destined for top officials in Uganda and Chad.

Patrick Ho
Patrick Ho. File photo: Citizen News.

Ho, 69, led a Hong Kong-based organisation called the China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC), which was funded by CEFC China Energy.

The ex-secretary for home affairs is scheduled to be sentenced on March 25 and faces a maximum of 65 years in jail.

In a written submission, defence lawyers asked the court to release Ho since he had already served 16 months. The court should consider his age, social contribution and family factors – such as Ho’s 92-year-old mother – in determining the sentence, Ho’s lawyers added.

The 149 letters pleading for mercy included one from Ho’s wife Sibelle Hu, who wrote that her husband was a “kind-hearted, generous” man.

She added that her husband was a “rare gentleman” who once provided free medical care for a low-income patient, and did not join the government for personal profit.

Sam Kutesa
Ho was charged with offering a bribe to Ugandan minister of foreign affairs Sam Kutesa. Photo: UN.

“Dear judge, I can’t verbally express the pain and hurt that I have experienced. There are many times when I didn’t want to live… Please show forgiveness and mercy. I beg you on my knees, please let [him] come home,” she wrote.

Hu added that Ho provided financial support for the family, and she had to seek a job to maintain her livelihood after her husband was held in custody.

In another letter, Ho’s elderly mother revealed that her son had a brain-related illness, and said she would like to see her son again before she died.

Colleagues praise ‘strong morals’

More than 10 of the letters came from Hong Kong’s political figures, with former government advisor Lau Siu-kai saying that Ho had a strong code of conduct.

Tung Chee-hwa
Tung Chee-hwa. Photo: Our Hong Kong Foundation.

Other supporters who wrote in included former top official Tsang Tak-sing, Exco member Ip Kwok-him, as well as some of CEFC China Energy’s top executives.

However, the list did not include Hong Kong’s former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, who was responsible for recruiting Ho into government.

Ho also received support from eight of his fellow inmates, who wrote to say that he provided medical advice and helped supervise work at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

On special occasions such as graduation ceremonies, Ho had played the violin as part of a band, they said.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.