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Financial Crimes
11/20/2017

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Head of international energy firm and former foreign minister charged with bribing high-level African officials

NEW YORK — Pursuant to a joint investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Chi Ping Patrick Ho, a/k/a “Patrick C.P. Ho,” and Cheikh Gadio  were arrested for their participation 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 (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 and Ho was arrested on Saturday.

“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,”stated Special Agent in Charge of HSI New York, Angel M. Melendez.

“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,”said FBI Assistant Director in Charge, William F. Sweeney.

“…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,” said Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim.

According to the allegations in the complaint and other statements in the public record, 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 Ho, the head of a non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong and Virginia (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.

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.

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”).  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.  This investigation is still ongoing.

This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York’s Public Corruption Unit and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.  The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 11/27/2017