Chinese Firm Pushes Back on African Bribery Allegations

An anonymous "source" inside a major Chinese energy firm today denied accusations that a Chinese national was involved in a "multi-year, multi-million-dollar" bribery scheme to potentially secure lucrative energy deals in Africa, as alleged by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The source from CEFC China Energy said the accusations against Chi Ping Patrick Ho of Hong Kong were untrue and politically motivated -- perhaps an effort by the U.S. to disrupt CEFC China Energy's "further energy cooperation" with a large Russian firm, according to China's Global Times. The Global Times identified Ho as the deputy chairman of the Hong Kong-based China Energy Fund Committee, which it said is funded by CEFC China Energy.

In an announcement Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice did not identify the Chinese firm purportedly linked to the scheme, but said that beginning in 2014 Ho and a former top government official in Senegal, Cheikh Gadio, plotted to "bribe high-level officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for a Chinese oil and gas company... in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)." The pair were arrested Friday and Saturday and presented to separate judges in New York's Southern District, the DOJ said.

The DOJ said that Ho's unidentified non-governmental organization, presumably the China Energy Fund Committee, had offices in Virginia. A website for the committee is currently "under maintenance," but an archived version shows the site was active at least as of October 2016. In the "About Us" section, the site describes the committee as a "non-governmental, non-profit civil society organization" that also "serves as a high-end strategic think tank engaged in energy strategy research, energy and public diplomacy, as well as global energy cooperation and cultural exchanges."

"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," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said in the DOJ announcement. "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 Global Times reported that Ho's attorney has denied the allegations. A public defender assigned to Gadio did not immediately return a request for comment from Code and Dagger. A spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry told reporters today he was "not aware of the details" of the case.

"As a principle, China always requires Chinese enterprises to legally operate their business abroad and abide by the local laws and regulations," the spokesperson said.

Primary Source: DOJ Announces Charges in Purported International Bribery Scheme

Primary Source: Firm Denies Bribery Allegations (Global Times)

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