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DOJ charges two in Chinese plot to bribe Africa officials

The DOJ unsealed a criminal complaint Monday charging the head of a Hong Kong-based NGO and the former foreign minister of Senegal with bribing high-level officials in Chad and Uganda to help a Chinese oil and gas company.

Chi Ping Patrick Ho (aka Patrick C.P. Ho), 68, of Hong Kong and Cheikh Gadio, 61, of Senegal, were each charged with conspiring to violate the FCPA, violating the FCPA, conspiring to commit international money laundering, and committing international money laundering. 

Gadio was arrested in New York Friday afternoon. Ho was arrested Saturday.

According to allegations in the complaint (pdf), the defendants paid bribes to help a “Shanghai-headquartered multibillion-dollar conglomerate that operates internationally in the energy and financial sectors.” The company wasn’t named.

Ho headed an NGO funded by the energy company, the DOJ said.

The DOJ said the NGO is based in Hong Kong and Virginia and holds “Special Consultative Status” with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. 

An NGO with that description is the China Energy Fund Committee or CEFC. On its website, CEFC says it is headed by “Dr. Patrick Chi Ping Ho” and “supported by a special private grant fully sponsored by China Energy Fund Co., Ltd.” That company in turn says it is “a private collective enterprise with energy and financial services as its core business.”

The DOJ complaint alleges that Ho, with Gadio’s help, offered a $2 million bribe to the President of Chad for help securing oil rights from the Chadian government. 

In exchange for the bribe, the complaint says, the President of Chad gave the energy company the “exclusive opportunity to obtain particular oil rights in Chad without facing international competition.” 

Gadio, the former foreign minister of Senegal, allegedly played “an instrumental role in the scheme,” the DOJ said. He connected Ho with the President of Chad and conveyed “the $2 million bribe offer to the President of Chad.”

Ho allegedly paid Gadio $400,000 for his help, via wires transmitted through New York City, the DOJ said.

Ho also allegedly paid a $500,000 bribe via wires transmitted through New York to an account designated by the minister of foreign affairs of Uganda.

The DOJ said the Uganda official had “recently completed his term as the President of the UN General Assembly.”

Sam Kahamba Kutesa was elected President of the United Nations General Assembly’s sixty-ninth session in June 2014. At the time of his election, he was serving as Uganda’s minister for foreign affairs, a post he held since 2005, according to a UN Africa site.

Ho also allegedly provided the Uganda officials “with gifts and promises of future benefits, including offering to share the profits,” the DOJ said.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said Ho’s alleged Ugandan scheme was “hatched in the halls of the United Nations in New York, when the country’s current foreign minister served as the President of the U.N. General Assembly, and then continued unabated upon his return to Uganda.”

The DOJ’s Ken Blanco said “the Criminal Division is committed to investigating and prosecuting corrupt individuals who put at risk a level playing field for corporate competitiveness, regardless of where they live or work.”

William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office said, “The scheme described in this case boils down to these subjects allegedly trying to get their hands on the rights to lucrative opportunities in Africa. They were allegedly willing to throw money at the leaders of two countries to bypass the normal course of business, but didn’t realize that using the U.S. banking system would be their undoing.”

A Wikipedia entry for “Patrick Ho Chi-ping” of the China Energy Fund Committee says he served as Hong Kong’s Secretary for Home Affairs from 2002 to 2007.

This was originally published on the FCA Blog.


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