Bribery vs claims of charity in Ho trial

Top News | ASSOCIATED PRESS 30 Nov 2018

The president of Chad asked why "people believe all African leaders are corrupt" as he rejected a bribe, a middleman in a prospective energy deal four years ago told a New York court in the corruption trial of former Hong Kong secretary of home affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping.

Cheikh Gadio told a Manhattan federal court jury that President Idriss Deby was enraged as he asked the corruption question after meeting CEFC China Energy representatives and being offered US$2 million (HK$15.6 million) secreted in gift boxes.

"I had never seen him in that state," said Gadio, a former foreign minister of Senegal. "He was really, really angry - even furious."

Gadio also brokered meetings between Deby and Ho, 69, who faces bribery and money laundering charges.

Ho, who headed a CEFC think tank, is also accused of lining the pockets of a Ugandan foreign minister and violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

He has denied all charges.

Ho's defense attorneys argue the US$2 million was a charitable donation. They also say Gadio's testimony should not be trusted.

Gadio had been indicted in the case, but prosecutors dropped all charges in exchange for his testimony.

Prosecutors originally accused him of playing "an instrumental role" in a bribery scheme by connecting Ho to high-ranking African officials and receiving US$400,000 for his efforts. They claim too that money wired to Gadio's consulting firm went through a bank in Manhattan.

Gadio told jurors Ho was "impressed" by Deby's refusal to accept the cash, though representatives of CEFC China Energy claimed the money had been intended all along as a donation to the Chadian government.

Gadio said Deby challenged that characterization, saying "donations are not made this way." And Derby told Ho and others that "the money is not staying in my compound. Take it away."

Ho's attorneys contend CEFC China Energy received nothing in return for any cash offer. But prosecutors say it was offered oil rights "without international competition," though it ultimately bought oil rights in Chad from a Taiwan firm.

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