Hong Kong businessman ends prison sentence in bribery scheme

NEW YORK (AP) — A prominent Hong Kong businessman has been freed after serving his three-year prison sentence for what prosecutors say were bribes paid to the presidents of two African countries.

Dr. Chi Ping Patrick Ho, 70, was given leniency at sentencing last year by U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska, who cited acts of kindness that included playing violin for fellow inmates. He served 16 months behind bars before sentencing. Good behavior shortened his incarceration time.

The judge said his charity also included tutoring inmates at the Metropolitan Correctional Center so they could finish high school.

Ho left the MCC in Manhattan on Monday and was deported to Hong Kong, according to the terms outlined at sentencing. The Bureau of Prisons confirmed his release.

Ho was convicted in December 2018 of paying bribes to the presidents of Chad and Uganda in a scheme to secure oil rights for an energy conglomerate known as CEFC China Energy.

Defense lawyers insisted at trial that payments to the presidents were legitimate charitable donations. The payments included $2 million in gift boxes delivered to Chad’s president in 2014.

Ho was exceedingly polite at sentencing, even taking a full bow before the judge to show what he described as his “gratitude and appreciation.”

At trial, prosecutors said Ho approached the presidents of Chad and Uganda on behalf of CEFC China Energy after growing accustomed to using money to entice foreign officials to help the company expand business.