Appeal Denied for Chinese Businessman Who Bribed Ugandan Dictator Museveni and his foreign Minister $1 Million

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The photo of Gen. Museveni displayed at trial in U.S. federal court as suspect Exhibit # 1510. Source: Department of Justice.

A three judge U.S. appeals court has denied a Chinese businessman’s claim that he was wrongfully convicted in 2018 for bribing Ugandan dictator Gen. Yoweri Museveni and his foreign minister Sam Kutesa $1 million.

Chi Ping Patrick Ho, hoping to clear his name, had also appealed his conviction on charges that he tried to bribe Chad’s president $2 million in order to gain oil concessions on behalf of giant company China CEFC Energy Company Limited (CEFC Energy). In Uganda, Ho also sought to gain benefits in oil and other industries for China CEFC. 

Ho was sentenced to three years imprisonment by U.S. District Court Judge Loretta A. Preska, in March 2019, after a jury trial found him guilty on several counts of bribery and money laundering charges. He was tried in U.S. federal court because he used a New York-based bank to wire Kutesa's share of the bribe money to Uganda.

U.S. prosecutors argued that Ho, who led a Hong Kong, and U.S.-based NGO, used the outfits to meet African diplomats at the United Nations, in order to curry favor, after which he then bribed them and the presidents of their countries. The business concessions Ho sought were on behalf of Shanghai-based China CEFC.

At trial, in December 2018, the U.S. argued that the so-called “Uganda scheme” began shortly after Kutesa began his one-year term as president of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2014. Then in February 2016, after Kutesa’s term as UNGA president had ended, “Kutesa, through his wife, solicited a bribe from Ho to be disguised as a payment to a charitable foundation.  Ho requested, and ultimately received, authorization from  the  chairman  of  CEFC  Energy  to  make  a  half  million  dollar  payment  to  Kutesa’s charity,” according to court documents.  

“Ho then contacted Kutesa to advise him that the payment would be made and to procure an invitation to the inauguration of Ugandan President Yoweri  Museveni,  who  was  Kutesa’s  brother-in-law.  Ho  told  Kutesa  that  he would  bring  executives  from  CEFC  Energy to discuss business opportunities  in Uganda,” according to court papers

On May 5, 2016, Ho then wired $500,000 from CEFC NGO  to  an  account  belonging  to  Food  Security  and  Sustainable  Energy  Foundation, a non-existent charity controlled by Kutesa with an account in Stanbic in Uganda. The money originated from HSBC  Hong  Kong, to HSBC Bank US; from there it was routed to Uganda through Deutsche   Bank   in   New   York, which is the correspondent  for Stanbic.

Museveni’s own bribe payment was delivered in cash, when Ho traveled with a CEFC Energy delegation on a Gulf Stream jet to attend Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony in May 2016, the U.S. argued. “Prior to departing," the U.S. argued, describing Ho's trip to Museveni's swearing in, "...Ho also advised his boss, the Chairman of CEFC China, to provide $500,000 in cash to President Museveni, ostensibly as a campaign donation, even though Museveni had already been reelected. Ho intended these payments as bribes to influence Kutesa and Museveni to use their official power to steer business advantages to CEFC China.” 

"HO and CEFC China executives attended President Museveni’s inauguration and obtained business meetings in Uganda with President Museveni and top Ugandan officials, including at the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources," the U.S. said. "After the trip, HO requested that Kutesa and Museveni assist CEFC China in acquiring a Ugandan bank, as an initial step before pursuing additional ventures in Uganda.  HO also explicitly offered to 'partner' with Kutesa and Museveni and/or their 'family businesses,' making clear that both officials would share in CEFC China’s future profits. In exchange for the bribes offered and paid by HO, Kutesa thereafter steered a bank acquisition opportunity to CEFC China."

Gen. Museveni has never made a statement about the $500,00 in cash as bribe payment the U.S. says he received and he’s not been asked the question by a journalist. Museveni has only commented on the $500,00 paid to his foreign minister, claiming he was told by Kutesa that it was “a donation.” During the court trial in New York, a large photograph of Museveni, marked as Exhibit #1510, was displayed on the courtroom screens. Kutesa’s image was labeled Exhibit 1504. 

Patrick Ho, in his appeal, alleged that the trial judge allowed evidence that should not have been permitted. He also claimed the laws used to indict him were mutually contradictory; and, that he was not engaged in money laundering since the wire transfer was from Hong Kong to Uganda, not to the U.S. and then Uganda. Ho, in his appeal, gave the example of someone who began a trip, intending to travel from point A to point B, but made a stop along the way. He wanted the appeals court to treat his wire transfer in the same manner—that New York should be regarded as a transit stop, as the money headed to Uganda.

The judges didn’t buy Ho’s argument and rejected his appeal on December 29, 2020. 

Ho worked his scheme at the U.N. through a U.S.-incorporated non-profit NGO called China  Energy  Fund  Committee  (USA)  Inc. Even though Ho was sentenced to three years, due to good behavior while behind bars, he was released in June 2020, and deported to Hong Kong.

 

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