Former Hong Kong official denied bail in U.S. corruption charges

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Monday refused to release a former Hong Kong government official on bail while he faces charges that he took part in a scheme to bribe officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for contracts for a Chinese energy company.

Lawyers for Chi Ping Patrick Ho, 68, had sought to have him released on a $10 million bond and placed under house arrest in Manhattan, subject to electronic monitoring, but U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest said that was not enough to ensure that Ho would not flee the country. She said Ho’s lawyers were free to make another bail proposal in the future.

Ho’s lawyer, Edward Kim, declined to comment on the ruling.

Ho, a former Hong Kong home affairs secretary, was arrested in November and has pleaded not guilty to charges of violating U.S. foreign corruption law, money laundering and conspiracy.

Prosecutors have said Ho arranged bribes on behalf of a Chinese energy company that funds an organization he leads.

Ho is secretary general of the Hong Kong-based China Energy Fund Committee, which describes itself as a charitable non-government organization. The organization is fully funded by CEFC China Energy, a Shanghai-based private conglomerate, according to its website.

CEFC China Energy said in a statement in November that it had no investment in Uganda, and that it had acquired an investment in Chad from Taiwan’s state-owned Chinese Petroleum Corp without dealing directly with Chad’s government.

Prosecutors said Ho caused the energy company to offer a $2 million bribe to the president of Chad in 2015 in exchange for exclusive oil rights in that country.

Idriss Deby has been Chad’s president since 1990. The government of Chad has denied the U.S. charges.

Prosecutors also said that Ho caused $500,000 to be wired to Uganda’s foreign minister in 2016, with the promise of further payments in the future, to secure favors for the Chinese company, including the potential acquisition of a Ugandan bank.

Sam Kutesa, who previously served as president of the U.N. General Assembly, has been Uganda’s foreign minister since 2015. Uganda has denied the allegations.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish