A court in the US has sentenced former top-Hong Kong official Patrick Ho to three years behind bars and 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 was sentenced on Monday, and has 14 days if he wishes to appeal.

Photo: FactWire.

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

Last week, 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.

“Patrick Ho schemed to bribe the leaders of Chad and Uganda in order to secure unfair business advantages for the Chinese energy company he served,” US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. “Foreign corruption undermines the fairness of international markets, erodes the public’s faith in its leaders, and is deeply unfair to the people and businesses that play by the rules.”

Ho’s lawyers had argued that Ho was already remanded for 16 months and should be released immediately.

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.