Chad government spurns charge that president scored US$2 million bribe from Patrick Ho
Administration says it ‘rebels’ against those who would tarnish the image of the central African country and its leader, Idriss Deby
Chad’s government on Tuesday denied allegations by US investigators that its president received a US$2 million bribe from former Hong Kong home affairs minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping so that a Chinese energy firm could obtain oil rights in the central African country.
The denial of President Idriss Deby came as it emerged that Ho required medical aid when he appeared in a New York courtroom on Monday, calling into question the health of the 68-year-old, who faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.
Ho was charged alongside former Senegalese foreign minister Cheikh Gadio over an alleged multimillion-dollar bribery scheme targeting top officials from Uganda and Chad in return for benefits to a top Chinese energy firm he was representing.
“Faced with this umpteenth false allegation, the government of Chad formally refutes this shameful fabrication,” the government said in a statement.
The Chad government added that it “rebels against the attitude of the US government and certain agencies that would tarnish the image of Chad and its president”.
It did not say whether Deby had on any occasion met Ho, who was working at an NGO fully funded by CEFC China Energy, a Shanghai-based rising star of China’s energy industry.
The US Department of Justice did not name CEFC China Energy when it placed Ho at the centre of US$2.9 million worth of bribery schemes in Chad and Uganda on behalf of a top Chinese oil company, with some deals allegedly arranged in the halls of the UN.
The NGO is the China Energy Fund Committee think tank, which has special consultative status at the UN’s Economic and Social Council, giving it access to influential decision makers on UN bodies, among other things.
Citing email exchanges, the US Department of Justice said Deby and Ho met in 2014 and 2015, including meeting at Deby’s presidential villa “in the middle of the desert”.
It accused Ho of offering US$2 million to Deby, who allegedly pledged an exclusive opportunity for the company Ho represented to obtain oil rights in Chad without facing international competition.
Ho extended the offer through Gadio, a good friend of Deby’s, with Gadio promised US$400,000 in compensation, investigators said.
Separately, Ho allegedly arranged a US$500,000 bribe to be paid into an account designated by Uganda’s foreign minister, who served as president of the 69th UN General Assembly. The payments and promises were made in exchange for the foreign minister’s help in obtaining business advantages for the unnamed top Chinese oil company, including possibly acquiring a Ugandan bank.
Meanwhile, Ho’s health status was unclear. Court documents showed that Magistrate Andrew Peck, of District Court, Southern District of New York, ordered medical aid for Ho.
According to the Department of Justice, Ho was later remanded in custody.
Ho would probably face a harsher trial than co-defendant Gadio, who was granted bail if he could raise US$1 million surety. Ho did not appear to be granted any conditions for bail, according to the Department of Justice’s statement.
“Bail is typically granted in white collar cases, unless there is a risk of flight or that evidence will be destroyed,” said Ross Feingold, an American lawyer based in Taiwan.
Feingold cited the recent case of Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng, who was involved a high-profile case over bribes for two UN ambassadors. Ng was freed on US$50 million bail combined with 24-hour guard and limited freedom to leave his home.
On its official website, CEFC China Energy said it was “highly concerned” about the case, but stressed it had no “commercial relations of authorisation” with the China Energy Fund Committee think tank, where Ho was secretary general of its Hong Kong Non-Governmental Fund Committee.
Former Hong Kong home secretary turned ‘civil diplomat’ Patrick Ho tapped UN connections to broker deals
“CEFC China Energy has no investment activities whatsoever in Uganda, while its investment project in Chad … does not involve so-called relations of interest with the Chad government,” it added.
Ho, 68, was arrested on Saturday in New York. He and Gadio, 61, have been charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering. The charges are based on their alleged use of the US banking system to process US$2.5 million in pay-offs, sent under the guise of donations originating from Hong Kong.
Ho, who was a member of the Hong Kong government from 2002 to 2007, has been remanded in custody and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.
On Tuesday, the Chad government said that since the country started oil production, “the president of the republic has always worked for the transparency and proper management of its natural resources”.
“Chad reaffirms its total sovereignty and will continue to pursue its fight for the development and social welfare of the people of Chad,” the statement said.
Deby, who won a fifth term in April 2016, has been the leader of Chad, Africa’s fifth-largest nation, since December 1990.