New York: A US federal court here has sentenced a disgraced former Hong Kong politician for six years in jail for his role in a multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe African leaders through contacts made at the UN.
The sentencing on Monday wrapped up a case that began with his arrest by FBI agents at the John F. Kennedy Airport here in November 2017 and saw Ho convicted on seven counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering in December 2018, reports CNN.
The maximum penalty for each charge ranged from five to 20 years in jail. He has pleaded not guilty.
Besides the sentence, the court also asked Ho to pay a $400,000 fine.
In sentencing, Judge Loretta A. Preska had called corruption “an insidious plague”. She noted that it is “found in all countries — big and small, rich and poor — but it is in the developing world that its effects are most destructive”.
But she also noted Ho’s record of helping others, including the inmates he had tutored during his 16 months at the Manhattan Correctional Centre, which will be deducted from his sentence.
After leaving the Hong Kong government, where he had served as Home Affairs secretary from 2002 to 2007, Ho became the head of a UN-based NGO which was fully funded by a mysterious Shanghai-based conglomerate called CEFC China Energy, which had been founded by Ye Jianming, who in 2016 was ranked No. 2 on Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list.
At the UN, Ho befriended African politicians and ultimately offered them bribes to gain business advantages for CEFC China Energy, CNN said.
He was found to have offered a $2 million cash bribe in gift boxes to the President of Chad, Idriss Deby, after arranging a meeting with him in the Sahara Desert to secure oil rights for a Chinese conglomerate.
In Uganda, Ho caused a $500,000 bribe to be paid, through the New York banking system, to Sam Kutesa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda, who had recently completed his term as the president of the UN General Assembly.
Uganda has since said in a statement that it was “erroneous” to say Kutesa was involved.
Ho also schemed to pay a $500,000 cash bribe to Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda. The bribe was not paid and there is no suggestion that Museveni accepted or solicited it.