Trial of former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho hears key witness Cheikh Gadio ‘went too far’ with talk of deals between Chinese companies and Senegal government
- Former Senegalese foreign minister says he regrets making claims about nation’s diplomatic recognition of Beijing in 2005
- Defendant turned witness gives third day of testimony in New York
Lawyers for a former Hong Kong minister facing bribery charges in a New York court on Thursday attacked a former top African diplomat – a key prosecution witness – for making unfounded claims that Chinese companies struck deals worth up to US$20 million with the head of his nation.
Cheikh Gadio, previously a defendant in the case against Patrick Ho Chi-ping, admitted he regretted making the claims, and that he “went too far”.
It was Gadio’s third day of testimony at New York Southern District Court, where Ho – Hong Kong’s home affairs secretary from 2002 to 2007 – faces eight counts of bribery and money laundering. Prosecutors allege Ho made the bribes to African leaders to bag oil rights for Shanghai-based energy firm CEFC China Energy, which he represented.
Gadio was Senegal’s foreign minister when it renewed diplomatic ties with Beijing in 2005, cutting them with Taiwan. At the time, the Taipei government accused Beijing of offering economic aid to lure African nations into switching ties. After retiring from public office, he became a consultant. He met Ho in New York in 2014.
He allegedly played a key role helping Ho to give “secret and confidential financial assistance” to Chad’s President Idriss Déby, in exchange for CEFC getting development rights to an oilfield in the country.
To convince Ho and CEFC to pay him as the middleman before any talks took place, Gadio wrote to Ho in October 2014, citing an earlier unhappy encounter dealing with Chinese companies. He said he was not paid for acting as mediator in the renewal of diplomatic ties in 2005.
In part of the report to Ho, titled “Re-establishing ties with China experience”, Gadio said he did not receive “a single dollar” from the 2005 negotiation, but the president of Senegal pocketed from US$10 million to US$20 million from Chinese companies.
But Gadio said on Thursday he deeply regretted making the claim.
“I went too far, the last part about Senegal was not true,” he said.
He denied inventing the story, but admitted he did not know for sure it was true: “That’s what I heard and I didn’t have a personal confirmation.”
But when challenged by Ho’s lawyer Edward Kim, he said: “It was a terrible statement. I deeply regret it because I didn’t have facts to back it up.”
He said he made the claim to make sure he would get compensated for his hard work on the deal between Chad and CEFC.
Noting that CEFC had made no written contract with him, Gadio said: “I was under the impression we would end up in a similar situation [as in 2005] since no documents were signed.”
He said he started negotiating the deal in Chad in late 2014, and felt frustrated that he was not paid until March and July 2015, when he took a total amount of US$400,000.
Seeking to challenge Gadio’s credibility, Kim asked if he received secret donations including 10 million West African francs (US$20,000) while running for Senegal president in 2012.
“This is a political tradition back home,” Gadio replied. “Businessmen pay candidates money for different reasons.”
The court heard that Gadio’s efforts to secure his payout bore no fruit. CEFC never signed a deal with him, and talks between the company and the Chadian government later broke down. Déby asked for US$1 billion for the rights, while CEFC would only offer US$200 million and some arms and discounted army loans.
Gadio recalled that negotiations between Chad and CEFC “went very poorly and ended very bitterly”.
By January 2017 the rights were no longer for sale.
The evidence showed Gadio mentioned to Ho when they first met that Gadio needed “to earn real financial resources to run for the president of Senegal”, asking for business cooperation with Ho and in other African states.
During Gadio’s testimony, Ho attentively studied the prosecution evidence shown on a monitor, and listened to Gadio’s recollections.