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U.S. charges two with bribing African officials for China energy firm

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Head Of Organization Backed By Chinese Energy Conglomerate, And Former Foreign Minister Of Senegal, Charged With Bribing High-Level African Officials

Defendants Allegedly Conspired to Bribe the President of Chad and the Foreign Minister of Uganda

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Kenneth A. Blanco, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), James D. Robnett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), and Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today the unsealing of a Complaint charging CHI PING PATRICK HO, a/k/a “Patrick C.P. Ho,” and CHEIKH GADIO with participating in a multi-year, multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe high-level officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for a Chinese oil and gas company (the “Energy Company”).  HO and GADIO were charged with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), international money laundering, and conspiracy to commit both.  GADIO was arrested in New York on Friday afternoon and presented on Saturday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox.  HO was arrested on Saturday afternoon and was presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck and ordered detained.

Chadian President Idriss Deby attends a meeting with EU and African leaders to discuss how to ease the European Union’s migrant crisis, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on Aug. 28, 2017.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “In an international corruption scheme that spanned the globe, Chi Ping Patrick Ho and Cheikh Gadio allegedly conspired to bribe African government officials on behalf of a Chinese energy conglomerate.  Wiring almost a million dollars through New York’s banking system in furtherance of their corrupt schemes, the defendants allegedly sought to generate business through bribes paid to the President of Chad and the Ugandan Foreign Minister.  As alleged, Ho’s 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.  International bribery not only harms legitimate businesses and fair competition, but it also destroys public faith in the integrity of government.  And when this type of international corruption and bribery touches our shores and our financial system, as the alleged schemes did, federal criminal charges in an American court may very well be the end result.”

 

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco said:  “This alleged scheme involved bribes at the highest levels of the governments of two nations.  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.  Their bribes and corrupt acts hurt our economy and undermine confidence in the free marketplace.”

 

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. 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.  The FBI, our partners in the IRS and the law enforcement community work diligently day after day to protect the integrity of our financial institutions, and stop foreign entities corrupting international commerce.”

 

IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge James D. Robnett said:  “IRS Criminal Investigation operates worldwide and has the expertise to identify bribery schemes such as alleged in the Criminal Complaint.  Our Special Agents are especially skilled at piecing together these financial puzzles, even those that involve such high level participants.”

 

HSI Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez said:  “These individuals allegedly offered millions of dollars in bribes to foreign officials, disguised as charitable donations, in order to seek business advantages. One used his position with a United Nations Council to further this scheme.  We will continue to aggressively investigate financial crimes committed by corrupt foreign officials while working collaboratively with our counterparts at the FBI and IRS.”

 

According to the allegations in the Complaint[1] and other statements in the public record:

 

Overview

 

This case involves two bribery schemes to pay high-level officials of Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for the Energy Company, a Shanghai-headquartered multibillion-dollar conglomerate that operates internationally in the energy and financial sectors.  At the center of both schemes is CHI PING PATRICK HO, a/k/a “Patrick C.P. Ho,” the head of a non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong and Virginia (the “Energy NGO”) that holds “Special Consultative Status” with the United Nations (“UN”) Economic and Social Council.  The Energy NGO is funded by the Energy Company.

 

In the first scheme (the “Chad Scheme”), HO, with GADIO’s assistance, caused the Energy Company to offer a $2 million bribe to the President of Chad in exchange for securing business advantages for the Energy Company in its efforts to obtain valuable oil rights from the Chadian government.  In particular, in exchange for the bribe, the President of Chad provided the Energy Company with, among other things, an exclusive opportunity to obtain particular oil rights in Chad without facing international competition.  GADIO, who is the former Foreign Minister of Senegal and who operated an international consulting firm, played an instrumental role in the Chad Scheme by, among other things, connecting HO with the President of Chad and conveying the $2 million bribe offer to the President of Chad.  HO compensated GADIO by paying him $400,000 via wires transmitted through New York, New York.

 

In the second scheme (the “Uganda Scheme”), HO caused a $500,000 bribe to be paid, via wires transmitted through New York, New York, to an account designated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda, who had recently completed his term as the President of the UN General Assembly (the “Ugandan Foreign Minister”).  HO also provided the Ugandan Foreign Minister, as well as the President of Uganda, with gifts and promises of future benefits, including offering to share the profits of a potential joint venture in Uganda involving the Energy Company and businesses owned by the families of the Ugandan Foreign Minister and the President of Uganda.  These payments and promises were made in exchange for assistance from the Ugandan Foreign Minister in obtaining business advantages for the Energy Company, including the potential acquisition of a Ugandan bank.

 

The Chad Scheme

 

As alleged in the Complaint, the Chad Scheme began in or about October 2014, when HO and GADIO met at the UN in New York, New York.  At that time, the Energy Company wanted to expand its oil operations to Chad, and to do so, it wanted to enter into a joint venture with a Chinese government-owned oil and gas company (the “Chinese State Oil Company”) that was already operating in Chad.  Earlier that year, the Chinese State Oil Company had been fined $1.2 billion by the government of Chad for environmental violations.  HO enlisted GADIO – who had a personal relationship with the President of Chad – to assist the Energy Company in gaining access to the President of Chad, with the initial goal of resolving the dispute between the government of Chad and the Chinese State Oil Company, and the ultimate goal of obtaining oil opportunities for the Energy Company in Chad.

 

GADIO successfully connected HO and the Energy Company to the President of Chad and to other Chadian officials.  HO, acting on GADIO’s advice, then caused the Energy Company to pledge a $2 million bribe to the President of Chad, in what was characterized as a “donation” for charitable causes.  GADIO later solicited from HO a $500,000 payment for GADIO’s firm, arguing that he should receive a percentage of the $2 million “gift” from the Energy Company to the President of Chad.

 

In reality, this “donation” was a bribe intended to influence the award of oil rights in favor of the Energy Company.  Following this $2 million pledge to the President of Chad, the Energy Company obtained a business advantage in its negotiations to acquire oil rights in Chad, in particular, by having the exclusive opportunity to purchase particular oil rights without facing international competition.  Ultimately, the Energy Company did not complete this acquisition, but instead purchased other oil rights in Chad from a Taiwanese company.  In exchange for GADIO’s efforts to facilitate the bribery of the President of Chad, HO caused $400,000 to be paid to GADIO’s firm, via two wires that were transmitted through a bank in New York, New York.

 

The Uganda Scheme

 

As alleged in the Complaint, the Uganda Scheme began in or about October 2014, when HO met at the UN in New York, New York with the Ugandan Foreign Minister, who had recently begun his term as the 69th President of the UN General Assembly (“PGA”).[2]  HO, purporting to act on behalf of the Energy NGO, met with the Ugandan Foreign Minister and began to cultivate a relationship with him.  During the year that the Ugandan Foreign Minister served as PGA, HO and the Ugandan Foreign Minister discussed a “strategic partnership” between Uganda and the Energy Company for various business ventures, to be formed once the Ugandan Foreign Minister completed his term as PGA and returned to Uganda.

 

In or about February 2016 – after the Ugandan Foreign Minister had resumed his role as Foreign Minister of Uganda, and his in-law had been reelected as the President of Uganda – the Ugandan Foreign Minister solicited a payment from HO, purportedly for a charitable foundation that he wished to launch.  HO caused a $500,000 payment to be wired to an account in Uganda designated by the Ugandan Foreign Minister, through a bank in New York, New York.  In his communications, HO variously referred to this payment as a “donation” to the reelection campaign of the President of Uganda (who had already been reelected) and as a “donation” to “support” the Ugandan Foreign Minister.

 

In fact, this payment was a bribe to obtain business advantages for the Energy Company in its efforts to secure contracts and ventures in Uganda’s financial and energy sectors.  HO also provided the Ugandan Foreign Minister, as well as the President of Uganda, with promises of future benefits, including proposing to partner with both officials’ family businesses in potential joint ventures.  In exchange, the Ugandan Foreign Minister assisted the Energy Company in obtaining business in Uganda, including by facilitating the Energy Company’s interest in potentially acquiring a bank.

 

*                      *                      *

 

HO, 68, of Hong Kong, China, and GADIO, 61, of Senegal, are each charged with conspiring to violate the FCPA, violating the FCPA, conspiring to commit international money laundering, and committing international money laundering.  The maximum penalties for these charges are as follows: five years in prison for conspiring to violate the FCPA; five years in prison for each violation of the FCPA; 20 years in prison for conspiring to commit international money laundering; and 20 years in prison for each charge of committing international money laundering.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

 

Mr. Kim praised the outstanding work of the FBI and IRS-CI, who jointly conducted this investigation.  He also thanked the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), and the Department of Justice, Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, which provided critical assistance.  Mr. Kim noted that the investigation is ongoing.

 

This case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas S. Zolkind, Thomas McKay, Daniel C. Richenthal, and Shane T. Stansbury, and Trial Attorneys David A. Last and Paul A. Hayden of the Fraud Section, are in charge of the prosecution.

 

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

[2] Although the Complaint refers to the “Ugandan Foreign Minister” throughout for clarity, during the year that he served as PGA, he did not simultaneously serve as Foreign Minister of Uganda.  Rather, he resumed as Foreign Minister of Uganda shortly after his term as PGA ended.

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