Bribery trial set to begin for ex-Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho
- Ho says he is not guilty of charges that he conspired to bribe the president of Chad and the Ugandan foreign minister
- He was once Hong Kong’s home affairs secretary
The New York trial of a former Hong Kong minister charged in a UN-linked bribery conspiracy is set to begin with jury selection on Monday.
The trial of Patrick Ho Chi-ping begins a year after he was arrested on charges accusing him of paying bribes so a Chinese energy conglomerate could secure business advantages. He has been held without bail.
His lawyer has said Ho was looking forward to clearing his name. Ho was once Hong Kong’s home affairs minister.
Ho has insisted he is not guilty of charges that he conspired in October 2014 to bribe the president of Chad and the Ugandan foreign minister.
Prosecutors say Ho’s former co-defendant, Cheikh Gadio, will testify at trial that Ho arranged a US$2 million bribe to be delivered to Chad’s president in gift boxes.
Last Wednesday, US District Judge Loretta A. Preska overruled defence objections, saying Gadio could testify that he understood Ho’s US$2 million cash payment to President Idriss Deby to be a “bribe”.
Ho’s lawyers had argued that Gadio’s testimony as to whether the US$2 million was a “bribe” was lay opinion and should be kept out of evidence the jury can consider.
Preska said she agreed with arguments by prosecutors that it would be difficult for Gadio to convey his understanding about the payment to the jury without using the word “bribe”.
She said banning him from use of the word would risk confusing the jury.
The judge said she would also let prosecutors show jurors evidence that Ho would only contribute money to a former UN official if the official agreed to take actions to benefit the energy conglomerate. And she said she would let jurors see evidence of Ho’s brokering Iranian transactions and arms transactions.
She said she would ban other evidence though, including arguments about the merits of projects Ho sought to advance through bribery or good causes toward which the officials he allegedly bribed could have used the bribe payments.
Preska also noted that defence lawyers had said they would not try to argue that the US brought the case against Ho as part of a broader campaign against China or that the timing of the prosecution was part of a broader political agenda.