Gen. Museveni and Janet Museveni, his wife and Education Minister, greet members of Ho’s delegation who traveled to the May 12, 2016 swear-in. This was one of dozens of photographs the U.S. entered into evidence in the federal court trial.
Hong Kong businessman Chi Ping Patrick Ho was convicted for bribing three African leaders on behalf of a powerful Chinese business conglomerate, CEFC China Energy Ltd., in U.S. federal court in Manhattan today.
The jury deliberated for just over four hours beginning at 10 A.M. Ho was convicted on seven of eight counts connected to bribery, money-laundering, and related conspiracy for the crimes. The maximum penalty on all seven counts is 65 years in prison; Ho is 69 years old.
Ho was convicted of conspiring to bribe and then offering $2 million in cash to Chad’s President Idriss Deby in December, 2014, in a bid to secure for CEFC China oil concessions whose value was estimated at $3 billion.
Ho was convicted for conspiring to bribe and then delivering $500,000 in cash to Uganda’s dictator Yoweri Museveni when he attended his swearing-in in May 2016. He was also convicted of paying Sam Kutesa a bribe of $500,000 via wire transfer from New York to an account provided by Kutesa’s wife. In Uganda Ho wanted to secure for CEFC interests in: rail, infrastructure construction, fishing from Lake Victoria, hydro-energy, banking and finance, and tourism.
Other potential deals included the construction of a Chinatown to boost tourism on land near Lake Victoria and on an island. CEFC also offered profit-sharing through a partnership with the Museveni and Kutesa family businesses. The meeting with Museveni was so successful that Ho wrote a report to CEFC’s chairman Ye that the Ugandan dictator was willing to undo already-completed bids in oil blocks to award concessions to CEFC.
“Patrick Ho now stands convicted of scheming to pay millions in bribes to foreign leaders in Chad and Uganda, all as part of his efforts to corruptly secure unfair business advantages for a multibillion-dollar Chinese energy company,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman, said this afternoon. “As the jury’s verdict makes clear, Ho’s repeated attempts to corrupt foreign leaders were not business as usual, but criminal efforts to undermine the fairness of international markets and erode the public’s faith in its leaders.”
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski added, “Patrick Ho paid millions of dollars in bribes to the leaders of two African countries to secure contracts for a Chinese conglomerate. Today’s trial conviction demonstrates the criminal division’s commitment to prosecuting those who seek to utilize our financial system to secure unfair competition advantages through corruption and bribery.”
The “Uganda Scheme,” as the U.S. called it, was hatched in Kutesa’s office at the United Nations beginning in October 2014, when he was President of the General Assembly (PGA). Some meetings occurred in Kutesa’s New York City residence. The first meeting was arranged after Ho contacted Kutesa’s chief of staff Arthur Kafeero.
Kutesa boasted to Ho in their early meetings about his family ties to Museveni; his daughter is married to Museveni’s son Gen. Muhoozi Kaenerugaba. The country’s powerful Special Forces Command reports to Kaenerugaba, once considered a potential successor to his father.
Eventually, Ho persuaded Kutesa invite him to speak at an event at the United Nations and to appoint Ye Jianming, the CEFC China chairman, as a Special Advisor to Kutesa. Ho then invited Kutesa and his wife to Hong Kong and China where they met with Ye.
It was after Kutesa’s term as PGA expired that the bribe-for-businesses-scheme swung into full operation. Kutesa has been embroiled in corruption allegations dating over a period of decades. In 2014 he survived a petition seeking to block his elevation to the post of PGA that gained over 15,000 signatures.
Kutesa, through his wife Edith, solicited through e-mail messages in April 2016 payment from Ho for a fake charitable foundation which the couple created as a ruse to accept the bribe payment, the jury was told. Ho agreed to send the $500,000 and asked that: chairman Ye of CEFC China be invited to Museveni’s 2016 inauguration; that business meetings be arranged with the dictator and other senior government officials; and, that a list of specific Uganda business projects be compiled that CEFC could invest in.
The $500,000 to Kutesa was then wired on May, 6, 2016 to Stanbic Bank Uganda Ltd., to an account that includes the Numbers 6581, according to a map presented by the U.S. as evidence that traced the route the funds traveled. Before being rerouted to the account provided by Edith Kutesa, the money was first sent by an HSBC account in Hong Kong that includes the Numbers 2838 to an HSBC U.S.A branch, also on May 6. The HSBC account holder was CEFC China Energy. The beneficiary at Stanbic was Food Security and Sustainable Energy Foundation, the alleged foundation created by the Kutesas. “Ho intended these payments as bribes to influence Kutesa and Museveni to use their official power to steer business advantages to CEFC China,” the U.S. maintained.
Ho also offered to provide both Kutesa and Museveni with additional corrupt benefits by “partnering” with their family businesses in future joint ventures in Uganda, which is where the real money was going to come from for the pair.
CEFC chairman Ye ended up not traveling to Museveni’s swearing-in. Ho was accompanied by other CEFC executives. Ho asked Ye to provide $500,000 in cash as a “campaign donation” to Museveni that would be delivered when the delegation traveled to Museveni’s May 12, 2016 inauguration. The election itself –widely reported as rigged– had been held months earlier, on Feb. 18, 2016.
On May 10, 2016, the day before departing to Uganda, Ho sent a note to the Kutesas saying, “We shall require some special assistance with your customs officials,” in reference to the $500,000 in cash for Museveni, the jury heard.
While in Uganda Ho and the delegation in addition to meeting Gen. Museveni met with senior government officials including from the ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.
With respect to the “Chad Scheme,” Ho was introduced to Senegal’s former foreign minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, a friend of President Deby. Ho and Gadio held their first meeting in September 2014, in Trump World Towers near the U.N., where CEFC Energy owned a suite. Gadio then arranged the meeting in Chad. During the first meeting with Deby in November 2014, the Chadian president described some oil blocs available for CEFC to acquire.
Instead of following up with a technical team to evaluate the potential concessions as Gadio recommended, Ho insisted that the former Senegalese minister arrange a second meeting with Deby. It was during this second visit to Chad in December, 2014, that Ho and colleagues from CEFC, presented the $2 million in cash wrapped in gift boxes.
Gadio initially himself was charged with accepting a bribe of $400,000 to arrange the meeting with Deby. The U.S. dropped charges against Gadio and during trial, which started last week Monday, he testified that he wasn’t aware that Ho and his CEFC colleagues intended to offer Deby a bribe. He testified that Deby rejected the bribe offer.
Ho’s operations in the U.S. were enabled through his U.N.-affiliated NGO, China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC NGO), which was funded by CEFC China Energy, a company that reported revenue of $40 billion in 2014. Ye, the chairman, has not been seen in public since March, 2018, and it’s believed he may have been arrested by the authorities. Ho’s NGO was based in Hong Kong and Arlington, Virginia, in the U.S. The government maintained that Ho used his NGO to conduct his corrupt activities, giving him access to walk the corridors of the U.N.
Ho’s sentencing is March 14, 2019. He was once a home affairs minister in Hong Kong.