Chinese oil giant denies Africa bribery scheme after US probe

Former Senegalese top diplomat Cheikh Gadio (pictured) and Hong Kong's Patrick Chi Ping Ho are accused of sending huge bribes to high-level officials in Chad and Uganda to secure business advantages for a Chinese company

Top Chinese oil company CEFC China Energy on Tuesday denied any involvement in an alleged multi-million dollar bribery scandal that US investigators say helped the giant win business advantages in Africa.

US officials announced Monday that they had arrested Hong Kong's former home affairs secretary and the ex-foreign minister of Senegal for leading the alleged scam, with some deals arranged in the halls of the United Nations.

Former Senegalese top diplomat Cheikh Gadio and Hong Kong's Patrick Chi Ping Ho are accused of sending huge bribes to high-level officials in Chad and Uganda to secure business advantages for a Chinese company.

The company was not identified in the announcement or the complaint filed in New York federal district court. But details in the complaint pointed to CEFC China Energy, the Shanghai-based rising star of China's energy industry.

Ho led a Hong Kong-based organisation called the China Energy Fund Committee, which is itself funded by CEFC China Energy.

In the Justice Department complaint, the two men allegedly offered a $2 million bribe to the president of Chad "to obtain valuable oil rights".

They also allegedly offered a $500,000 bribe to an account designated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda, who had recently completed his term as the President of the UN General Assembly.

CEFC China Energy released a statement late Tuesday "in response to some media reports" that He Zhiping, the general secretary of the fund, was being "prosecuted by the US judicial authorities". He Zhiping is the mainland Chinese way of transliterating Ho's name.

The statement said the fund was established to "promote international energy research, conduct public diplomacy, and facilitate global energy cooperation and cultural exchange."

But it added that the fund "is not involved in any of the commercial activities of CEFC China".

"Any activities that go against the law and discipline are strictly prohibited by the company," the statement added.

The statement did not mention Gadio.

CEFC China Energy has blown onto the scene in just a few years, taking major stakes in global projects, including a 14 percent chunk of Russia's Rosneft, and playing an important role in Chinese President Xi Jinping's ambitious One Belt One Road initiative.

Ho, 68, and Gadio, 61, are each charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering, with possible jail sentences of as much as 20 years. They were arrested over the weekend in New York.

Ho was Hong Kong Home Affairs secretary from 2002 to 2007, and served for several years on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee Conference.

Gadio was Senegal's foreign minister from 2000 to 2009.