Ho 'prepares for worst'

Top News | Staff Reporter 26 Mar 2019

Former home affairs chief Patrick Ho Chi-ping is expected to be sentenced to a jail term early today after being found guilty by a US court of bribery and money-laundering offenses.

Ho is expected to be jailed for three to five years. The prosecution earlier recommended the court to sentence him to five years in prison and fined US$400,000 (HK$3.12 million).

Ho, 69, was found guilty in December on seven of eight charges, including bribery and money laundering over oil rights for private Chinese conglomerate CEFC China Energy in Chad and Uganda.

On Wednesday, Ho's wife - former Taiwanese actress Sibelle Hu Hui-chung - was seen heading to the mainland through Lok Ma Chau Control Point, sparking questions whether she is trying to seek assistance from Beijing.

She did not appear in court during the seven-day trial.

After the sentencing, Ho can apply for bail while awaiting for appeal immediately. But the court is unlikely to allow him bail as he had failed five previous applications.

Ho, who has been remanded for 16 months, was convicted of bribing the presidents of the two African nations to secure oil rights for the Chinese company, during which he made payments, including HK$2 million (HK$15.6 million) secreted in gift boxes delivered to the president of Chad in 2014.

Despite insisting the transactions were charitable donations intended to foster goodwill in Chad and Uganda and expand the business of the energy enterprise, his defense was in vain.

Prosecutors earlier portrayed Ho as an astute bagman who parlayed his position at the helm of CEFC China Energy's non-profit think tank to befriend and line the pockets of government officials as the oil and gas company sought new business ventures around the world

US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said 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. The maximum penalty for each of his convicted offense ranges from five to 20 years, meaning he could be jailed for up to 65 years, but the prosecution only suggested the New York Southern District Court sentence him to five years behind bars.

In a written submission to the court, the prosecution said the recommendation was made after considering factors, including his age, background and the nature of the crime.

Ho earlier e-mailed the prosecution, in which he described himself as "the first of the sacrificial lambs" amid Sino-US hostility after he learned that Huawei chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou had been arrested. He also e-mailed his wife saying he has prepared for the worst and told her to do the same.

Originally a well-known ophthalmologist, Ho served as Hong Kong's home affairs secretary between 2002 and 2007, when Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen were chief executives.

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