Hong Kong Businessman Pleads Not Guilty to Bribery Scheme

MANHATTAN (CN) – A Hong Kong-based businessman who is charged in the sprawling United Nations corruption probe pleaded not guilty Monday to a multimillion bribery scheme involving oil rights in Chad and Uganda.

Prosecutors say Patrick Ho, 68, tried to funnel $2 million to Chad President Idriss Deby and $500,000 to Uganda’s foreign minister, with an eye toward tapping the vast oil reserves in both nations.

“Not guilty, judge,” Ho told U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest this afternoon.

Former Senegalese diplomat Cheikh Gadio is charged alongside Ho but did not appear in court today. He has yet to enter a plea.

Their indictment is part of a series of cases initiated in late 2015 by then U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, alleging bribing at the heart of the United Nations. One of the first indicted had been the late U.N. General Assembly President John Ashe, who died in an accident before he could be brought to trial.

Since then, Bharara’s successor Joon Kim secured the conviction of Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng, and filed similar cases in the Southern District of New York.

The latest case revolves around a Chinese enterprise identified in a New York Times report as CEFC China Energy Company, a “major player in the global energy business.” The company’s name is shielded in court papers

U.S. prosecutors claimed jurisdiction for the globe-sprawling transactions because of deals that they said took place in the halls of U.N. headquarters, when Uganda’s current foreign minister Sam Kutesa had been serving as the president of the 69th session of the general assembly.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind said that discovery would be voluminous.

Judge Forrest said that she would aim to set a trial a trial date at Feb. 2, the day of the next pretrial conference.

Ho’s attorney Edward Kim declined to comment.

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