Wednesday, April 21, 2021

US prosecutors reject ex-Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho’s attempt to get bail in bribery case


US prosecutors have objected to ex-Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping’s fourth attempt to get bail after being behind bars for more than seven months, arguing that their investigations showed evidence of his guilt had “become stronger”.

In an 18-page submission last Friday to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for their case against the former secretary for home affairs, prosecutors said they had interviewed witnesses and searched his think tank office in Virginia under warrant and obtained documents from third parties.

“Ho does not just present a flight risk,” they wrote. “He presents an extreme flight risk.”

The further investigations were carried out after Ho was arrested in New York last November and charged for corruption and money-laundering. It is alleged he offered US$2.9 million worth of bribes to government officials in Uganda and Chad.
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Prosecutors argued the District Court for the New York Southern District had ruled correctly in denying Ho bail in February, describing the evidence as “overwhelming”.

Details of the claimed additional evidence were not revealed in the submission.

The Hong Kong native lodged an appeal with the Second Circuit court last month, after the district court denied his bail request in May, following similar rulings in February and last December. The Second Circuit court hears appeals against decisions made by district courts in the states of Connecticut, New York and Vermont.

Ho, who was a minister from 2002 to 2007, argued the judge had erred by “overstating” his risk of fleeing and stressed he had already proposed a lucrative bail package, including a cash surety of at least US$3 million as well as flats in Hong Kong belonging to his mother and brother.

But prosecutors rejected that assurance, saying Ho had not lived in the US since 1984 and had been travelling around the world for a Shanghai-based energy conglomerate, later identified as CEFC China Energy in a court document. Ho’s assets outside the US totalling at least US$7 million, they argued, were “more than enough to create a risk of flight”.

Prosecutors further countered Ho’s claim that forfeiting the two flats in Hong Kong would be easy, calling it “an invention” and “effectively meaningless”. Nor was there any proof the city’s laws supported handing over property for such a purpose, they added.

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On the question of extradition, prosecutors stressed that Ho’s high profile and claim that the charge was politically motivated had cast doubt on whether Hong Kong “would ever agree to extradite” him if he made his way back to his hometown.


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