Ex-home affairs chief due back in SAR after release

Top News | Maisy Mok 9 Jun 2020

Former secretary for home affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping was released early from jail yesterday after serving a three-year sentence for bribery in New York.

But he is still in detention awaiting deportation to Hong Kong for his US visa is invalid.

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

His US visa has been revoked due to "moral turpitude" and he is in immigration custody awaiting deportation after his release from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, reports said.

"The Immigration Department does not comment on individual cases," a Hong Kong Immigration Department spokesman said when asked about Ho's repatriation.

The spokesman added anyone who has the right of abode can enter Hong Kong.

The 70-year-old Ho served 14 months and 14 days of his three-year jail term handed down by US District Judge Loretta Preska on March 25 last year after being convicted of international bribery.

He was arrested in November 2017 for bribing top officials of Chad and Uganda for a Shanghai-based conglomerate that he served -- CEFC China Energy Co Ltd.

Ho was convicted on four counts of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, one count of international money laundering and two counts of conspiracy to commit both.

He had been detained for two years and seven months since his arrest in November 2017 and was fined US$400,000 (about HK$3.12 million).

At the time of the crime, Ho was the secretary-general of the Hong Kong-based China Energy Fund Committee, also known as CEFC NGO, which was funded by CEFC China.

In December 2014, Ho and CEFC China executives offered the president of Chad, Idriss Deby, US$2 million in cash - hidden in several gift boxes - to acquire oil rights.

President Deby rejected the bribe.

In May 2016, Ho caused the wiring of US$500,000 to Sam Kutesa, minister of foreign affairs of Uganda, to influence the country's leaders to use their power to steer business advantages toward CEFC China.

Kutesa steered a bank acquisition opportunity to CEFC China.

He appealed in March this year in the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, despite an early release this month.

The result of the appeal has not been announced yet.

Edward Kim, defense attorney, wrote in a court filing to plead for the judge's leniency and said Ho had "deeply regretted" his action. He had filed 149 letters of support from Ho's family, friends, patients and inmates.

Ho's representative team said Ho had tutored several fellow inmates and taught classes in prison.

"He considers it his duty to leverage his talents and the good fortune he has enjoyed in his life to better the lives of those around him," the team said.

maisy.mok@singtaonewscorp.com

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