A former Hong Kong minister currently detained in the US has made yet another attempt to be released from custody by asking the US Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court’s decision to deny him bail.
Patrick Ho Chi-ping’s application came after he was thrice denied bail by the District Court for the Southern District of New York. He could be held for another five months before the formal trial begins in November.
Ho, Hong Kong’s home affairs secretary from 2002 to 2007, faces a total of eight corruption and money-laundering charges for offering US$2.9 million (HK$22.8 million) in bribes to government officials in Uganda and Chad. He has been in custody since he was arrested in New York last November.
He has urged the appeal court to commence an expedited hearing before the trial later this year.
“Continuing detention is both unwarranted and prejudicial to Dr Ho,” his legal team argued. “If this appeal is not expedited, it will be moot.”
In a 28-page submission filed on Tuesday, Ho’s lawyers said that lower court judge Katherine Forrest had sided with the “one-sided examination of evidence” against Ho and “overstated” the risk of him not turning up for trial in November.
They cited how the district court had accepted the prosecution’s suggestion that Hong Kong might not entertain the United States’ extradition request if Ho fled to the city.
“As a recognisable public figure in Hong Kong, he certainly could not hide there,” Ho’s legal team stated.
Ho also said that there was no previous record of such a refusal, a claim contradicted by the US State Department in its annual Hong Kong Policy Act report published in May, which stated that Hong Kong had refused to turn over a detainee in October 2017.
Ho was representing energy group CEFC China Energy at the time of the alleged offences, and the company has paid his legal fees. Judge Forrest earlier pointed to the firm’s “significant ties with China”, implying that Beijing could come to Ho’s rescue.
Ho’s lawyers argued that there was “not a scintilla of evidence” that CEFC would provide such protection.
“It is common for corporate entities to advance the legal fees of white-collar defendants whose alleged criminal activities took place when they were acting on behalf of the entities,” the team said.
Ho, who will turn 69 next month, had earlier offered to increase the cash surety for his bail to US$3 million and include his mother and brother’s flats in Hong Kong in the bail package, on top of a US$10 million personal recognisance bond. He was also willing to submit to house arrest.