The man from China who wanted to buy his way into Africa

Patrick Ho Chi-ping, former Secretary for Home Affairs of Hong Kong, in Hong Kong, China.

Media outlets are reacting to the prosecution of a Hong Kong politician who tried to bribe two African presidents in exchange for contracts for a Chinese oil company.

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On Monday, Patrick Ho Chi-Ping was sentenced to three years in prison in the US for bribery and money laundering. It also shone a light on a mysterious Chinese energy giant that had so tightly aligned itself with President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road policy that it was often hard to distinguish between the two. The sentencing wraps up a case that began with his arrest by FBI agents at John F Kennedy Airport in November 2017, and saw Ho convicted on seven counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering in December 2018.

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It spanned three continents, millions of dollars and included clandestine meetings with African leaders in the middle of the Sahara Desert.” That deal in the Sahara Desert refers to Ho allegedly offering a $2m (£1.5m) cash bribe in gift boxes to the President of Chad Idris Deby. Prosecutors said Ho proposed flying secretly to “a village in the middle of the desert” to meet Mr Deby and negotiate fines imposed by Chad on China’s state oil company. The government of Chad deny the claims. Reports  adds that Ho also schemed to pay a $500,000 cash bribe to the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni. It stipulates that the bribe was not paid and there is no suggestion that Mr Museveni accepted or solicited it.

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The maximum penalty for each charge ranged from five to 20 years in jail.

Rob Precht, a criminal justice lawyer who has been following the case, said Monday that the sentence was “unusually lenient” calling it “simple mercy” by the judge. Ho will also pay a $400,000 fine. During the lead-up to his trial, he had offered to post $10 million bond, secured by $3 million in cash. In sentencing, Judge Loretta A Preska had called corruption “an insidious plague.” She noted that it is “found in all countries — big and small, rich and poor — but it is in the developing world that its effects are most destructive.”

Pedestrians walk past a signboard of China CEFC Energy in Shanghai, China, in May 2018.

But she also noted Ho’s record of helping others, including the inmates he had tutored during his 16 months at the Manhattan Correctional Center, which will be deducted from his sentence.

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