Co-accused to testify against former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho in HK$22.8 million bribery trial
All charges dropped against Senegalese ex-official Cheikh Gadio, who has agreed to become a witness
A Senegalese ex-official has agreed to testify in former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping’s bribery trial, with US prosecutors dropping all charges against the co-accused turned witness.
A request to dismiss the complaints against Cheikh Gadio was lodged to the Southern District Court in New York on September 14, almost 10 months after the former foreign minister was arrested in the United States. The one-page filing did not include any explanation for the move.
Gadio, a US resident, had agreed to testify in Ho’s case as a witness, two separate sources told the Post.
One source added that one of the conditions for dropping the charges was that Gadio provide information regarding the case involving Ho – as Gadio had been doing and would continue to in the future.
Sean Hecker, the former Senegalese minister’s lawyer, said he was “extremely grateful that the case against Dr Gadio has been brought to a just resolution”.
His client looked forward to continuing to cooperate with the US authorities before returning to Senegal, Hecker added.
Ho, Hong Kong’s home affairs minister from 2002 to 2007, was arrested in New York last November and later charged on eight counts: three for money laundering and five for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by offering US$2.9 million (HK$22.8 million) worth of bribes to government officials in Africa to advance oil and development rights in Uganda and Chad for Shanghai-based CEFC China Energy.
The accounts to which the money was sent were designated to Ugandan foreign minister Sam Kutesa and Gadio.
US authorities said that Ho met Gadio at the United Nations in 2014 and later paid him US$400,000 for his influence over Chad’s president. Gadio was alleged to have helped broker a CEFC pledge in early 2015 to “donate” US$2 million to the head of state for “charitable causes”.
Before the charges were dropped, federal prosecutors delayed Gadio’s plea hearing nine times – with a one-month extension granted each time – to seek “a resolution” or “a potential disposition”. None of the delays were opposed by Gadio.
Veteran criminal defence lawyer Robert Precht said the “unusual” decision by the US prosecutors appeared to have two motivations.
“First, the prosecutors have extracted a promise from Gadio to testify against Ho. Second, the decision to drop all charges is in part a political move – the US government wants to maintain good diplomatic relations with [its ally] Senegal,” he said.
Prosecutors had concluded that they would gain more by dropping the charges in return for Gadio’s cooperation in becoming a new pressure on Ho, Precht added.
“[Ho] is a ‘bigger fish’ because of his connections to CEFC. With this newly added pressure on Ho – a former co-defendant and co-conspirator willing to testify against him – prosecutors hope to force him to plead guilty and agree to testify or give evidence against Ye [Jianming] and CEFC.”
Ye, the founder of CEFC, is an entrepreneur with ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Ho was working at the time of his arrest for the China Energy Fund Committee, a Hong Kong research group that receives funds from CEFC.
CEFC has denied any “commercial authorisation relationship whatsoever” with the think tank, in a statement issued after Ho’s arrest.
Ho pleaded not guilty to all the charges, but his request for bail was rejected four times. His trial is tentatively set for November this year.
“What would you do? Plead guilty and cooperate, or go to trial and risk saying goodbye to the rest of your productive life?” Precht said, laying out the “agonising choice” facing the former Hong Kong minister.
The US Department of Justice declined to comment on whether a deal had been struck between Gadio and the prosecutors, or whether Gadio would testify against Ho.
Ho’s lawyers also declined to comment.