Patrick Ho may be a pawn in the great game of nations

Former Hong Kong home affairs chief has been accused of helping to pass huge sums in bribes to African leaders through the US banking system

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 11:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 11:32pm

Patrick Ho Chi-ping served as home affairs secretary under two chief executives in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.

Arrested in New York this week, he has been accused of helping to pass huge sums in bribes to African leaders through the US banking system. Some of the actions allegedly took place at the headquarters of the United Nations.

US arrests Patrick Ho over alleged oil bribes

Ho may yet be proved innocent. But his arrest will inevitably be lumped with the jailing of two of his former bosses, former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan and former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, both for misconduct in public office.

This series of events amounts to a body blow to the international image and self-regard of the city as having one of Asia’s cleanest governments. Those in power all the way up to the city’s leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, must now reflect deeply about this adverse development and work to reverse it.

By some measures, Hong Kong remains relatively clean. It scored 77 out of 100 last year on the corruption perceptions index compiled by the respected Transparency International.

This means it ranked 15th out of 176 countries and territories, making it on a par with Belgium but ahead of Austria, the United States, Ireland, France and Japan.

However, for most of the past decade, we scored above 80, so we may be in a worrying declining trend.

It’s not clear, though, how Ho personally benefited from the alleged transactions, which have been linked to CEFC China Energy. He works for an NGO think tank funded by the Shanghai-based company. His arrest, along with an ex-foreign minister of Senegal, came days after an oil supply deal was reached between CEFC and Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil giant.

Chinese company denies bribery charge that led to arrest of Patrick Ho

Some mainland newspapers have speculated about a geopolitical motive for the Americans, who have been alarmed by the increasingly close relationships between China, Russia and many African states, especially over energy supply.

It would not be the first time an undeclared American foreign policy goal is linked to the prosecution of foreign nationals.

US prosecutors would indeed be extremely busy if they went after every corrupt foreign official who ever used the US banking clearance system just because their transactions were made in greenbacks.

At this point, we don’t know if Ho is guilty and/or a pawn in the great game of nations. We may never know.