Prosecutors in the US have recommended that a New York court sentence former top-Hong Kong official Patrick Ho to five years in jail with a US$400,000 (HK$3.14 million) fine for bribery.

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. He will be sentenced next Monday.

Patrick Ho
Patrick Ho. Photo: Patrick Ho.

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

The prosecution said Ho could have persuaded officials to grant contracts and oil rights to the conglomerate he worked for. However, Ho and his co-conspirators “cheated repeatedly” instead.

“Hiding behind and misusing a non-governmental organization, registered as a charity, that he purportedly operated to promote international diplomacy and energy security, the defendant orchestrated and executed two different schemes to offer and pay bribes to senior public officials in both Chad and Uganda,” the prosecution wrote in a document to the court.

“He executed those schemes overtime. He offered and paid bribes in multiple ways. And when he was caught, he claimed that he was an innocent humanitarian, whose arrest was both political and wrongful. It was neither.”

China Energy Fund Committee
China Energy Fund Committee office in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. Photo: Citizen News.

The sentence recommendation was made after considering Ho’s background and age.

Ho’s lawyers said he was already remanded for 16 months and should be released immediately. But the prosecution said the court should impose a substantial sentence.

Before the trial, the prosecution said Ho declared assets totalling US$7 million, but he later claimed he had assets totalling only US$2.4 million. The prosecution said Ho’s legal fees were paid by CEFC China Energy and questioned his real assets.

The prosecution also said Ho did not reveal his properties, bank accounts, trusts and other items he held with his wife. Therefore, they believed there was no sign that Ho could not pay the suggested fines.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.