(CN) – Prosecutors claim two representatives for a Chinese energy company offered a $2 million bribe to the president of Chad and a $500,000 bribe to Uganda’s foreign affairs minister in a scheme they say was hatched on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Justice Department announced that the criminal complaint against Chi Ping Patrick Ho, 68, of Hong Kong, China, and Cheikh Gadio, 61, of Senegal, was unsealed Monday, alleging violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, conspiracy to commit international money laundering and committing international money laundering.
Gadio is the former foreign minister of Senegal and Ho is the head of an energy policy think tank and was previously home affairs secretary in Hong Kong.
The men allegedly bribed high-level African officials on behalf of an unnamed Shanghai-based energy company in an attempt to secure lucrative oil rights in Central Africa.
Acting Southern New York U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said that the wide-ranging conspiracy was conceived in the halls of the United Nations in New York and included a $500,000 bribe to Uganda foreign minister Sam Kutesa, who was president of the U.N. General Assembly in the 69th session in 2014 to 2015.
Kim claims Ho and Gadio wired close to $1 million through New York banks in furtherance of their alleged scheme to aid the Chinese oil and gas company.
Neither the complaint nor prosecutors mentioned the Chad president or Uganda minister by name. Idriss Deby has been president of Chad since 1990 and Kutesa has been Uganda’s foreign minister since 2005.
“International bribery not only harms legitimate businesses and fair competition, but it also destroys public faith in the integrity of government,” Kim said in a statement. “And when this type of international corruption and bribery touches our shores and our financial system, as the alleged schemes did, federal criminal charges in an American court may very well be the end result.”
The criminal complaint alleges the international corruption scheme began in the fall of 2014 and involved Ho and Gadio offering bribes under the guise of charitable donations to buy the influence of high-level government officials in Chad and Uganda for the benefit of the unnamed Chinese energy company.
In the first alleged scheme, Ho, the deputy chair and secretary general of a non-governmental energy and think tank based in Hong Kong and Virginia, pledged $2 million to Chadian President Deby in a bid to secure lucrative and exclusive oil rights in Central Africa.
Ho's think tank has “consultative status” at the U.N. Economic and Social Council, which allows it to participate in U.N.-sponsored meetings and activities, the criminal complaint states.
Gadio played a key role by allegedly introducing Ho to President Deby and communicating the $2 million offer. Ho is accused of wiring $400,000 to Gadio to compensate him for his part in the alleged scheme.
Ho is allegedly behind a $500,000 bribe to the bank account of Uganda’s foreign minister. Prosecutors say he gave the gifts in exchange for business advantages for the Chinese oil and gas company.
In the end, the Chinese company did not obtain the oil rights, according to the Justice Department.
Authorities arrested Gadio in New York on Friday afternoon. Ho was arrested on Saturday afternoon. They stood before magistrate judges in New York on Saturday and Monday, respectively, prosecutors said.
Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Oxman declined to comment on the charges. Emails to Kutesa and Deby's offices were returned as undeliverable.