Ex-Senegalese Diplomat Will Spend Thanksgiving Behind Bars

More than a decade ago, Senegal’s ex-foreign minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio stood before the U.N. General Assembly for a high level-meeting on a program for least developed countries in 2006. He is now in a federal prison awaiting corruption charges. (Photo courtesy of United Nations)

MANHATTAN (CN) – Senegal’s former foreign minister will remain incarcerated in the United States over the holiday weekend, in the second U.N. bribery scandal to land in a New York federal court’s docket over the past year.

Serving his native Senegal from 2000 and 2009, diplomat Cheikh Gadio has been under arrest here for alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act since Friday.

Prosecutors contend that Gadio, 61, helped Hong Kong-based businessman Patrick Ho, 68, funnel $2 million to Chad’s President Idriss Deby to help tap their nation’s vast oil reserves. Ho is separately charged with a similar $500,000 scheme involving Uganda’s foreign minister.

Although the Chinese enterprise’s name is shielded in court papers, the New York Times reported it to be CEFC China Energy Company — a company described in the report as a “major player in the global energy business.”

Describing the case as an “international corruption scheme that spanned the globe,” Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim claimed jurisdiction via bank transactions that took place near United Nations headquarters in New York.

“Wiring almost a million dollars through New York’s banking system in furtherance of their corrupt schemes, the defendants allegedly sought to generate business through bribes paid to the President of Chad and the Ugandan Foreign Minister,” he said on Monday.

That same day, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathaniel Fox imposed a $1 million bond that would have allowed Gadio to await trial as a free man.

Gadio’s attorney Sabrina Shroff said during a hearing Wednesday that prosecutors have been ginning up bureaucratic delay preventing her client’s wife from paying that bond in order to seek a “stay through the backdoor.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal took umbrage at the allegation.

“It’s offensive to suggest we delayed,” he said, his voice rising. “It did not happen.”

Prosecutors blame the delay on several factors, from chronic understaffing at the State Department to the difficulty arranging for Gadio’s electronic monitoring on the eve of Thanksgiving.

Though Senegal does not celebrate Turkey Day, Gadio’s wife is a U.S. citizen, and he will be away from their family’s Maryland home this holiday.

The last major diplomatic bribery scandal to hit this court also involved a Chinese tycoon: Ng Lap Seng, a now-convicted billionaire who bypassed the need for electronic monitoring by financing his own armed guards to watch him inside his lavish home.

Critics of the arrangement argued that it allowed the rich to finance their own “golden cages,” which are not available to the poor.

Gadio has not called for such an arrangement, nor is there any indication that he can afford such a solution.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero told the attorneys that he would not disturb the status quo until after the long weekend, setting another hearing for 3 p.m. on Monday.

Gadio’s lengthy criminal complaint describes his alleged work helping to revise an unnamed executive’s letter to Chad’s president offering a $2 million “donation.”

“In its capacity as a good friend of the Chadian government and people, [the energy company] expresses its sincere wish and its support for the development of Chad,” a Dec. 18, 2014 draft of the letter read in French. “In order to do this, we would like to make a donation of 2 million U.S. $ to the government of Chad from us for a development fund, in order to demonstrate the deep friendship between us and Chad and with the ardent hope and trust that we are constructing towards the development of Chad.”

Prosecutors contend that Gadio and Ho spent the next few weeks perfecting the offer.

“Follow this up urgently,” Ho wrote the day after Christmas that year, according to the complaint. “Tell him that we sent him a draft of the letter and waiting for him to give us the way or address so that a formal hard copy can be sent to the president.”

Gadio demanded at least 25 percent of the promised $2 million gift, as Chad’s president had been his contact, according to the complaint.

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