Hong Kong ex-minister Patrick Ho ‘staying strong’ as he prepares to plead not guilty to US bribe charge
Sources say Ho will apply for bail and try to convince judge he will not flee US before trial over alleged multimillion-dollar bribery scheme
Patrick Ho Chi-ping, the detained former Hong Kong minister at the centre of an alleged multimillion-dollar bribery scheme between a top Chinese energy firm and two African leaders, is “anxious” but staying strong as he prepares to plead not guilty to charges mounted by US authorities, sources said on Thursday.
Ho, 68, has been described by people in contact with him since his arrest on Saturday as a “strong man”. He planned to apply for bail within 25 days and was prepared to pledge at the hearing that he would not flee the United States, sources with knowledge of his plans said.
“He is obviously anxious, like everyone [would be] in his circumstances,” a source in contact with him since his detention said. “He remains a strong man. He’s keen to know what legal procedures will follow.”
The judge in the case has allowed Ho to continue taking medication he had been given before his arrest, and will proceed with a bail application when Ho’s legal team submits it.
Ho will have to convince the judge that he will not abscond and will stay in the US not only during the 30-day period of indictment that began with Saturday’s arrest, but also for a trial that could last anywhere from six months to a year, according to the source.
Whether the court would entertain the request was unclear. Ho’s co-defendant, former Senegalese foreign minister Cheikh Gadio, had his bail hearing postponed by the judge until after the Thanksgiving holiday, according to US media.
Ho is accused of funnelling US$2.9 million in bribes to Chad’s President Idriss Deby, Ugandan foreign minister Sam Kutesa and Gadio, in return for oil rights for an unnamed Shanghai-based energy firm Ho represents.
The prosecution has 30 days to finalise the indictment. In the meantime, Ho will proceed with the bail application, another source said.
Citing lawyers’ predictions, that source said: “The strength of the prosecution’s case will depend on the evidence and witnesses.”
Ho’s wife, Sibelle Hu, reportedly replied to media inquiries by forwarding a few articles featuring speculation that Ho’s arrest was related to the geopolitical rivalry between the US and Russia. She did not comment further on the reports. Ho’s arrest came a day after CEFC China Energy, a Shanghai-based energy company, reached an oil supply agreement with Rosneft, a Russian state-owned oil company.
CEFC China Energy fully funded China Energy Fund Committee, the NGO of which Ho was secretary general.
China Energy Fund Committee said in a statement published in Chinese media that America’s “exaggerated” acts over “something hypothetical” had shown that “the deepening of Sino-Russian cooperation has touched its sensitive area”.
CEFC China Energy has denied instructing him to carry out business on its behalf. It said it was “highly concerned” about the proceedings.
Ho and Gadio are each charged with violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and of money laundering. Ho faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.