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Patrick Ho

Ex-Senegal official to testify against former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho in US bribery case, prosecutors say

‘Substantial evidence’ to be delivered by co-defendant-turned-witness in US$2.9 million bribery case

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 7:42pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 11:32pm

An ex-Senegalese official would “provide substantial evidence of the defendant’s guilt” when testifying against former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping, US prosecutors have said.

It was the first official acknowledgement that Cheikh Gadio would be a witness and no longer a co-defendant following a court ruling in New York two weeks ago that all charges against the former foreign minister of Senegal and US resident be dropped.

It also confirmed the Post’s previous report that one of the conditions for dropping the charges was that Gadio provide information relating to the case against Ho, as Gadio had been doing and would continue to in the future.

“Gadio has been meeting with the government for some time and he is expected to testify at trial pursuant to a recently executed non-prosecution agreement,” US justice department attorney Geoffrey Berman wrote in a letter to Judge Loretta Preska of the Southern District Court of New York on Friday.

Gadio’s testimony will provide substantial evidence of the defendant’s guilt
Geoffrey Berman, US justice department

“Gadio’s testimony will provide substantial evidence of the defendant’s guilt,” Berman added.

The letter was meant to oppose the fifth bail application made by Ho’s defence team on Monday.

Citing another letter from Berman in May – which included Gadio’s denials of some allegations made against him and Ho in the original complaint – Ho’s lawyers argued the government’s move to drop charges against Gadio “seriously [diminished] its case against Dr Ho”.

The bail hearing is due to take place on Thursday in New York.

Ho, Hong Kong’s home affairs minister from 2002 to 2007, has been behind bars in the US since last November. He is charged on eight counts: three for money laundering and five for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He is accused of offering US$2.9 million (HK$22.6 million) worth of bribes to government officials to advance oil and development rights in Uganda and Chad for CEFC China Energy, a Shanghai-based company.

At the time of his arrest, Ho was working for the China Energy Fund Committee, a Hong Kong research group that receives funding from CEFC.

The accounts to which the money was sent were designated to Gadio and Ugandan foreign minister Sam Kutesa. US authorities said Ho met Gadio at the UN in 2014 and later paid him US$400,000 to lobby Chad’s president, Idriss Deby.

In the letter sent on Friday, Berman said Gadio was expected to testify that Ho provided US$2 million in cash concealed within a gift box to the Chadian president at a meeting in the African country around December 2014. The meeting was connected to Ho’s interest in business opportunities in Chad.

Gadio would also testify that Ho drafted a letter to the president purporting to pledge the US$2 million to charitable causes after the president refused the offer. But Gadio denied advising or agreeing with Ho to bribe the president, Berman said.

“The evidence of the defendant’s intent to bribe the president of Chad is ... much more robust in light of Gadio’s expected testimony,” Berman wrote in his letter.

According to indictment documents released earlier, Gadio allegedly advised Ho to “reward him [the president of Chad] with a nice financial package as an entry ticket in the Chadian oil market and later gas market and other key business” in an email sent on November 19, 2014.

These documents also revealed Gadio amended Ho’s drafted letter to Deby, by adding the words “at your disposal” when the purported US$2 million donation to his administration was mentioned.

Before the meeting in December 2014, Gadio had liaised a meeting between Ho and the Chadian president in November 2014 and was later paid a US$400,000 consultancy fee in 2015, the indictment said.

But the prosecution expressed confidence that Gadio’s distancing himself from Ho’s cash offering did little to affect its strong case against the former Hong Kong minister.

“[Gadio’s stance] does not undermine the evidence establishing that the defendant decided, in conjunction with his business associates – whom he plainly trusted more than Gadio – to offer [US]$2 million in cash to the president of Chad in an effort to obtain business,” Berman stated.

Ho’s defence team requested that he be released on four conditions: a US$10 million personal recognisance bond secured by US$3 million in cash and unencumbered deeds to homes belonging to Ho and his relatives; house arrest in a flat near the court; electronic monitoring; and a global waiver of extradition.