Ex-Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho denied bail a fifth time ahead of US$2.9 million bribery trial
Judge notes that Ho faces stronger case, with former co-defendant expected to testify against him
Detained former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping, who is accused of offering US$2.9 million in bribes to African officials, was denied bail for the fifth time by a US court on Thursday local time.
Rejecting the application, New York Southern District Court judge Loretta Preska noted that Ho could face a tougher trial in November after it was revealed that a former co-defendant was expected to testify against him.
The ex-home affairs minister was arrested in New York last November and has been held in custody for nearly 11 months. He has pleaded not guilty to all eight counts of bribery and money laundering to advance oil and development rights for Shanghai-based energy conglomerate CEFC China Energy in Chad and Uganda.
Ho’s previous four bail attempts were all turned down despite his legal team’s repeated claims that he had no intention of fleeing and would show up for the hearing.
United States authorities earlier dropped charges against Ho’s former co-defendant, ex-Senegalese foreign minister Cheikh Gadio, who was also arrested in New York last November but was later granted bail.
As part of his non-prosecution agreement, the former diplomat is expected to testify against Ho, who is accused of offering cash and donations to Chadian president Idriss Déby.
Gadio previously told the prosecution that Ho had provided US$2 million in cash concealed within a gift box at a meeting in Chad around December 2014. After the president rejected the initial cash offer, Ho allegedly changed the offer to a donation pledge for CEFC China.
The ex-Senegalese official had earlier denied he had suggested or agreed to Ho bribing the president. Ho’s team argued that if Gadio did not know of the alleged bribe, the prosecution could not prove Ho had the intent to bribe Déby.
Rejecting the defence’s claim, Judge Preska said Gadio’s testimony would only bring a stronger case in the upcoming trial.
The court originally scheduled a one-month trial from November 5 to December 4 for the case, but the first hearing could be delayed as both the prosecution and defence need more time to deal with evidence from expert witnesses and regarding surveillance procedure.