Key witness in ex-Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho’s bribery trial says he was ‘surprised and shocked’ by US$2 million gift to president of Chad
- Former Senegalese foreign minister Cheikh Gadio was arrested at same time as Ho but had charges dropped after he agreed to testify for US government
A key prosecution witness in the corruption trial against former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping told a US court he had been “surprised and shocked” to learn that the gift boxes he helped the defendant deliver to the president of Chad had contained US$2 million.
“I didn’t know there was cash in the gift boxes,” Cheikh Gadio, a former foreign minister of Senegal, said on Tuesday when questioned by prosecutor Douglas Zolkind.
“I was surprised and shocked. Two million dollars in cash in the gift boxes – I can only think of bribery attempt.”
Gadio, 62, began his testimony on the second day of the trial brought against Ho, who faces eight charges, including bribery under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, money laundering, corruption and conspiracy. Ho has denied all eight counts.
Gadio was a facilitator for one of the alleged bribery schemes conducted by Ho and was arrested at the same time as the defendant in November 2017. But the charges against him were dropped after Gadio agreed to testify on behalf of the government under a non-prosecution agreement.
Ho was then secretary general of the China Energy Fund Committee, a think tank fully funded by CEFC China Energy, a Shanghai-based private conglomerate. Ho was allegedly trying to secure exclusive oil rights in Africa for CEFC.
In 2014, Ho, together with other executives of the oil conglomerate CEFC and Gadio, allegedly presented gift boxes containing a cash donation of US$2 million to the president of Chad, Idriss Deby. A previous indictment noted the meeting took place in Chad, and that Gadio was hired as consultant by Ho’s think tank.
When asked why he did not stop working with Ho after the incident, Gadio said he wanted to be compensated for his hard work. He explained Chad was an important strategic partner in Africa in the fight against terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and IS. He later received US$400,000 for his work.
After completing his term as foreign minister, Gadio remained politically active. He was elected to the Congress of Senegal in 2017 and became the chairman of a for-profit consulting company called Sarata that worked on developing new business possibilities for Africa in the global market.
He was expected to continue his testimony on Wednesday.
Ho, 69, who was Hong Kong’s home affairs minister from 2002 to 2007, looked relaxed in the same purple shirt he wore in court the previous day. He waved at both Gadio and prosecution witness Vuk Jeremic when they were asked to identify him.
Jeremic, an ex-foreign minister and current opposition leader in Serbia, was the first to take the stand on Tuesday. He was also the chairman of the Centre for International Relations and Sustainable Development, a think tank fully funded by several million dollars in donations from CEFC. Jeremic met Ho when he was serving as a president of the UN General Assembly from 2012 to 2013.
After finishing his work at the UN, Jeremic was hired by CEFC China Energy as a consultant. During his two years working for CEFC, Jeremic was paid US$330,000 annually. His job was to advise the top leaders of the energy company.
The prosecutor went through a detailed analysis of the email exchange between Ho and Jeremic, who has facilitated deals between CEFC and countries such as Mexico, Turkey, Russia, the UAE and Mongolia.
“I was building relationships with other people. I was opening doors,” Jeremic said. “Majority [of these connections] resulted in no deals. I remember some were successful.”
Jeremic played a key role in connecting Gadio and Sam Kutesa, a former foreign minister of Uganda, who was linked to Ho’s second alleged bribery scheme.