A federal appeals court in New York has upheld the bribery conviction of Patrick Ho, a Chinese businessman and the former head of a think tank funded by a Chinese energy conglomerate with links to Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, New York, found Ho was properly convicted by a federal jury in December 2018 of paying bribes to the presidents of Chad and Uganda in a United Nations-linked conspiracy, according to a court filing (pdf).
Ho was a top lieutenant of Ye Jianming, a Chinese oil tycoon whose company, CEFC China Energy Co. (CEFC), sought oil drilling rights in Chad and Uganda. Ho’s conviction in 2018 was based on charges relating to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, with Ho accused of offering bribes to officials from Chad and Uganda on behalf of CEFC to secure oil rights in these countries.
He was sentenced in 2019 to three years in prison by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska. His lawyers insisted that the payments, which included $2 million in gift boxes to Chad’s president, were legitimate charitable donations, and not bribes.
Ho’s appeal was based on the argument that there was insufficient evidence for a conviction and that the process leading up to his conviction was marred by procedural errors, but the appeals panel disagreed.
“We conclude that the evidence introduced at trial was more than sufficient to prove that Ho acted on behalf of the U.S. NGO to assist it in obtaining business for CEFC Energy,” Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan wrote in the ruling.
The NGO referred to in the ruling was the CEFC-backed China Energy Fund Committee, an organization based in both Hong Kong and Arlington, Virginia, for which Ho served as secretary-general.
According to a September report released by the Senate Homeland Security Committee and Senate Finance Committee (pdf), which investigated Hunter Biden’s business dealings, CEFC wired $1 million to Hunter Biden’s law firm in March 2018 for Ho’s legal case.
According to an attorney engagement letter obtained by The New York Post, Ho agreed to pay Hunter Biden a $1 million retainer for “Counsel to matters related to U.S. law and advice pertaining to the hiring and legal analysis of any U.S. Law Firm or Lawyer.”
Hunter Biden pursued lucrative deals with CEFC, according to emails obtained by The New York Post. One of these emails, reportedly sent by Hunter Biden as part of an Aug. 2, 2017, correspondence thread, involved a deal with Ye Jianming for part-ownership of a holding company expected to generate more than $10 million a year for Hunter Biden.
Ye Jianming, who had ties to Chinese military and intelligence services, hasn’t been seen since being taken into custody by Chinese authorities in early 2018.
Hunter Biden’s tax affairs are currently the subject of a federal probe.
“I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs,” Hunter Biden said in a statement in early December. “I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors.”
If Joe Biden prevails in the contested election and is sworn into office next month, his pick for attorney general could have oversight of the investigation. He told CNN in an interview in early December that he wouldn’t interfere in any Justice Department probes.
“I’m not going to be telling them what they have to do and don’t have to do. I’m not going to be saying go prosecute A, B, or C—I’m not going to be telling them. That’s not the role, it’s not my Justice Department, it’s the people’s Justice Department,” Biden said at the time.