Kris Cheng | Hong Kong Free Press
A lawmaker asked the Hong Kong anti-graft agency on Thursday to look into the bribery case of former top official Patrick Ho.
Ho’s case has ties to Hong Kong, and as such warrants an investigation by Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the lawmaker said.
The former home affairs secretary Patrick Ho was convicted on Wednesday by a New York court over a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme in Africa, in which he is alleged to have acted on behalf of a top Chinese energy company.
Ho, 69, was convicted of seven out of eight charges of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering for bribes allegedly directed to top officials in Uganda and Chad.
Ho did so to support projects of CEFC China Energy. Ho led a Hong Kong-based organization called the China Energy Fund Committee, also known as CEFC, which was funded by CEFC China Energy.
He will be sentenced in March next year and faces a maximum of 65 years in jail.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, a former ICAC investigator, said Ho represented a foundation backed by CEFC China Energy, which has a base in Hong Kong. He appealed to the ICAC to look into the Hong Kong ties of the case.
“Through the relevant court documents and witnesses, we discovered that parts of the bribes were transferred from HSBC in Hong Kong to the US,” he said. “The relevant transactions and negotiations also partially took place in Hong Kong.”
“We have reasons to suspect that there were people in Hong Kong assisting or persuading Patrick Ho to conduct this case of bribing African officials,” he added. “I believe the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the police have the legal power and duty to fully investigate the Patrick Ho case, to see if any Hong Kong companies or people were involved.”
Lam said the number of cases related to suspicions of money laundering has reached a five-year high recently, at 92,000 cases.
“Hong Kong as an international finance center must be very careful to not let the international community think we have become an international corruption, bribery, and money laundering center,” he said.
Asked if the case is related to the ongoing US-China trade war, Lam said he has no evidence to support that idea.
“All criminal cases must be based on evidence,” he said. “The US is a country practicing judicial independence. There are cases that the US government would lose when they go to court. I don’t think any government can use these criminal cases to exert pressure on other countries.”