Bribery trial of former Hong Kong home affairs minister Patrick Ho begins in New York, as jurors say they hold no bias against China
- Ho stands accused of bribing African officials to bag oil development rights for a Shanghai-based energy group
Twelve jurors with the fate of detained former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping in their hands have told a US court they hold no bias against China.
They were responding to questions from New York District Court judge Loretta Preska as the bribery trial against Ho began on Monday, local time.
The jurors and three substitutes – 11 women and four men – were pulled from a roster of 50 people from the Southern District of New York, where the court has jurisdiction, and vetted before the judge, the prosecution and Ho’s defence lawyer.
Ho, who was the city’s home affairs secretary from 2002 to 2007, earlier pleaded not guilty to five bribery charges and three money-laundering charges. He is accused of bribing African officials with a total of US$2.9 million, to bag oil development rights for Shanghai-based energy group CEFC China Energy.
The defence has said the money was merely donations intended to advance the business interests of CEFC, which Ho represented.
In US courts, potential jurors have to reveal personal background under oath in open court, including their job, their hobbies, what newspapers they read and what films they watch.
The relatively young jurors agreed on by both sides and the judge were mostly in their late 30s or 40s. All had a bachelor’s degree or higher. The otherwise diverse group included no ethnically Chinese people.
The judge asked the jurors if they had strong views on China. All 12 said they did not.
More than half of the jury said they were not frequent news consumers. Three to four said they were readers of The New Yorker or The New York Times or followed CNN and the BBC.
A prosecutor, a lawyer and an investigative reporter were rejected from the panel, as no member could come from a law enforcement or legal background.
But veteran criminal defence lawyer Robert Precht said no particular occupations meant people were precluded from serving on a jury. “The key question the judge will ask prospective jurors is whether they can be fair and put aside anything they may have read or heard about the case and be impartial,” he said.