Patrick Ho

Co-defendant in ex-Hong Kong minister’s US bribery case moved from detention to house arrest

Local legal expert believes ruling augurs well for former home affairs minister’s similar hope as probe presses on

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 10:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 11:00pm

A co-defendant in the alleged African bribery scheme implicating former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping has won his request to be removed from detention, with a US judge placing him under house arrest in Maryland.

A local legal expert said the partial bail granted to former Senegalese foreign minister Cheikh Gadio could augur well for Ho, a former secretary for home affairs in the city. Ho was arrested in New York on suspicion of paying US$2.9 million worth of bribes to leaders of Chad and Uganda in return for oil rights and other benefits for a leading Shanghai-based energy firm.

“Both are a flight risk, but the court felt that Gadio’s risk could be contained with stringent bail conditions,” University of Hong Kong law professor Simon Young said of the ruling. “Consistency would suggest that Ho will receive the same treatment.”

Ho’s lack of a criminal record led Young to doubt there was any indication that the former city official would “commit further offences or tamper with witnesses or evidence while on bail”.

A source last week said Ho was planning to apply for bail within about three weeks. Ho’s lawyers could not be reached for comment.

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According to the US Department of Justice, his role in the corruption scheme was more direct and prominent than Gadio’s. Ho had been working for a subsidiary of CEFC China Energy after he left the Hong Kong government. He was the sole suspect in the payment of US$2.9 million (HK$22.6 million) worth of bribes to Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, Uganda’s foreign minister, Sam Kutesa, and co-defendant Gadio, formerly the top Senegalese envoy.

Gadio, 61, was alleged to have connected Ho to the Chadian leader, while the deal with the Ugandan official apparently began in the halls of the United Nations.

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The funds in question were wired within the US banking system, which meant US law enforcement could review the transaction.

Gadio was released by the New York Southern District Court on Monday, in a proceeding reportedly attended by a former Senegalese ambassador to the US.

According to media company Radio France Internationale, as soon as details are finalised, Gadio is to leave the detention facility and return to his home in Maryland. There, he is to stay under house arrest, subject to GPS control.

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The court’s decision dealt a blow to prosecutors, who had argued Gadio represented a flight risk. They had argued he possessed “enough resources to escape”.

Gadio’s lawyers had countered that the former foreign minister was a “legal and regular” US resident, adding he had been cooperating with authorities following his arrest on November 18.

The defence counsel also reportedly stressed that Dakar and Washington enjoyed strong relations.

Chad and Uganda earlier rejected the bribery accusation. CEFC China Energy denied it, too.