Hong Kong businessman gets 3 years in prison for bribery

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NEW YORK (AP) — A prominent Hong Kong businessman was sentenced to three years in prison on Monday and fined $400,000 after he was convicted of paying bribes to the presidents of two African countries.

U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska sentenced Dr. Chi Ping Patrick Ho, who is also an ophthalmologist and was once Hong Kong’s home affairs secretary.

Ho was convicted in December 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.

Lawyers for Ho 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 charged in New York City by authorities who cited meetings and wire transfers in Manhattan related to the bribes.

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Prosecutors had recommended Ho serve five years. Defense lawyers said his 16 months behind bars as a model inmate were enough.

Defense lawyers said in a pre-sentence submission that Ho “deeply regrets” his actions.

They said their client has tutored fellow inmates at a downtown Manhattan lockup on subjects “ranging from geography to personal finance.”

During a weeklong 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 its business.

Prosecutors say the Ugandan scheme emerged at the United Nations in New York when Uganda’s foreign minister served as president of the U.N. General Assembly.

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