Senegal envoy assailed in 'deeply flawed' case

Top News | Associated Press and Charlotte Luo 6 Dec 2018

A US prosecutor told a jury in a Manhattan federal court that former Hong Kong home affairs secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping used movie-like ploys in trying to bribe African leaders to secure oil rights for a Chinese energy conglomerate.

But the defense called the prosecution "deeply flawed" and assailed a Senegalese diplomat who was indicted with Ho then agreed to testify for the prosecution.

Those points came in closing arguments before the jury began deliberating on whether Ho, 69, is innocent or guilty of money laundering, conspiracy and violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Assistant US attorney Douglas Zolkind portrayed Ho as a shrewd and calculating person accustomed to throwing money at foreign officials to expand CEFC China Energy's global portfolio.

He pointed to a recorded telephone call in which Ho, a consultant for CEFC, discusses a "major contribution" to the now-deceased John Ashe, an Antiguan diplomat who served as president of the UN General Assembly.

Ho also talked of "give and take" practices when making contributions.

"It's classic, like something out of a movie," Zolkind said of Ho's tactics. "This is not how legitimate business is done."

Defense attorney Edward Kim hit out at Cheikh Gadio, a former foreign minister of Senegal who testified as a prosecution witness after charges against him were dropped.

"There's something rotten about Cheikh Gadio, who lied from the witness stand so he could get a free pass," Kim said.

Gadio told jurors last week that Ho - who chose not to testify - and colleagues at CEFC tried to bribe Chad President Idriss Deby with US$2 million (HK$15.6 million) amid oil-deal talks in 2014. He said the cash was hidden in gift boxes, but Deby angrily rejected the money.

Kim also argued it was Gadio who suggested CEFC provide Deby with "secret or very confidential financial assistance" for political campaigns.

"This was a man who thought politics was a for-profit business," Kim said, adding Gadio himself accepted bribes.

Kim also acknowledged cash offers to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and to Ugandan foreign minister Sam Kutesa.

But Kim insisted they were documented charitable donations and Ho "made no attempt to hide what he was doing."

The prosecution said Ho paid hundreds of thousands of US dollars in bribes to Kutesa and his brother-in-law, Museveni.

Kutesa was also president of the UN General Assembly when Ho first sought him out.

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