Ex- Hong Kong Official Gets Lighter Sentence in Bribery Case

Business | Ex- Hong Kong Official Gets Lighter Sentence in Bribery Case A federal judge gave Patrick Ho substantial credit for tutoring and counseling many inmates at the Manhattan Correctional Center when she sentenced him on Monday. Credit... Franke Tsang/South China Morning Post, via Getty Images

A former Hong Kong official’s repeated good deeds while in custody led a federal judge to sentence him on Monday to much less time in prison than United States authorities had wanted for conspiring to bribe foreign leaders on behalf of a Chinese oil company.

Judge Loretta A. Preska of Federal District Court in Manhattan sentenced Patrick Ho to three years in prison — two years less than federal prosecutors had sought in a sentencing memorandum.

“Corruption is insidious,” and the crimes Mr. Ho committed warrant a prison sentence, the judge said. But she noted that Mr. Ho had a long history of helping ordinary people and gave him substantial credit for tutoring and counseling many fellow inmates at the Manhattan Correctional Center.

“The random acts of kindness to so many is something extraordinary,” Judge Preska said after Mr. Ho expressed remorse for his actions and bowed to the judge at the end of his statement.

Mr. Ho was also ordered to pay a $400,000 fine.

Mr. Ho, an ophthalmologist and a frequent visitor to the United Nations in recent years, was convicted in December on charges of trying to bribe government leaders in Africa to secure business for CEFC China. Mr. Ho worked for a think tank set up by the once-fast-growing company. The trial put a spotlight on the aggressive methods CEFC used to expand its reach from Asia to Africa, Europe and the United States.

Mr. Ho, 69, has been held in federal custody since his arrest in November 2017. He will get credit for the roughly 16 months he has spent in federal detention, meaning he has completed nearly half his sentence. After his prison term, he will most likely be deported to Hong Kong.

Mr. Ho told the court that he was remorseful and said he was heartened by letters of support from the inmates he had helped counsel who were either on suicide watch or studying for their high school equivalency exams. At one point during his statement, Mr. Ho’s voice began to quaver, and Judge Preska had her clerk take him a box of tissues.

“At times I felt my life was over,” Mr. Ho said.

Prosecutors and the federal Probation Office recommended a sentence of five years, far less than the more than 20 years called for under federal guidelines.

As part of its recommendation, the probation department noted that the bribery scheme had been initiated and controlled by high-level officials at CEFC, including its former chairman, Ye Jianming.

Mr. Ye, who was served with a subpoena by federal authorities during a visit to the United States in late 2017, has not been seen since March. He is believed to be in Chinese custody and under investigation for unspecified crimes.