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Patrick Ho

Patrick Ho US bribery case: CEFC China Energy identified in evidence against ex-Hong Kong minister

Letter mentions CEFC China Energy offering US$2 million in donations to Chadian leader  

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 April, 2018, 11:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 12:07pm

A major Chinese conglomerate has been identified for the first time in court documents in the case of former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping, who is detained in the United States and accused of offering bribes to African officials.

CEFC China Energy was mentioned in one of the documents the prosecution submitted as evidence to a New York court. It showed the firm offered US$2 million in donations to Chadian President Idriss Déby to help the needy as a symbol of its “sincere commitment” to the country.

While the company’s chairman, Ye Jianming, was not named in the documents, the exhibits included a report from Ho to a “chairman Ye” relating to Ho’s meeting with Déby.

The Post earlier reported Ye has been detained since February in mainland China for questioning for undisclosed reasons.

US prosecutors have not named CEFC China Energy, which funded Ho’s think tank, China Energy Fund Committee, in any of their indictment documents since the former Hong Kong official was arrested last November in New York.

They only repeatedly mentioned a “Shanghai-based energy company” for which Ho was accused of helping to secure oil rights in Chad and Uganda by offering US$2.9 million (HK$22.8 million) in bribes to African officials.

Former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho sought help from Beijing to fight bribery charges, court documents show

The latest documents were submitted ahead of Ho’s third bail application hearing on Wednesday at the New York Southern District Court. Ho, who was Hong Kong’s home affairs secretary from 2002 to 2007, pleaded not guilty to the charges on January 9 and has been denied bail twice.

Another set of documents recently submitted to court revealed Ho had sought Beijing's help via a friend he called while in custody in December, claiming he was being used to “get to the big tiger” and “discredit” China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”. He also stated in an email he sent to the chief of a subsidiary company of the oil firm that the case meant the “country” and the “CEFC” company were both on the line.

After Ho’s arrest, the oil company distanced itself from the case, saying it did not authorise “commercial relations” with his think tank. Chad earlier called the bribery claim a “false allegation” and “shameful fabrication”.

But one of Ho’s emails submitted to court showed he sent a report to a “chairman Ye” three days after his meeting with Déby in N’Djamena, the Chadian capital, on November 11, 2014. CEFC China Energy executive director Zang Jianjun accompanied Ho on the trip, the email showed.

Ye is chairman of both CEFC China Energy and Ho’s think tank.

The report indicated Ho repeatedly brought up the oil company’s interests during his meeting with the Chadian president, who asked for funding for roads and power stations.

Ho said Déby looked forward to cooperating with CEFC China Energy, as he was disappointed by the other Chinese state-owned companies in Chad, which he claimed focused only on economic benefits.

He added that Déby said Brazil was interested in an oilfield project in northern Chad and joked that a subordinate had been “bribed”. The Chadian president said he was “personally willing” to grant CEFC the development rights, according to the report.

In another court submission, a letter dated December 11, 2014 showed that Zang wrote to Déby saying the company would give him US$2 million for his “social actions” helping vulnerable groups.

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Zang described the donation as “symbolic of China CEFC’s sincere commitment” to him and the country.

At Ho’s bail application filed last week, Ho’s lawyer said the donation was meant to advance “humanitarian goals” and reflected Ho’s “charitable intent”.

The documents also showed CEFC China Energy had consulted its legal team before deciding whether to employ Cheikh Gadio – another defendant in Ho’s case – as a consultant in talks with the Chadian president.

Gadio, the former Senegalese foreign minister, was arrested last November but granted partial bail. He has since been put under house arrest.