Bribery Allegations Against CEFC Officials Shed Light on Chinese Firm’s Covert Political Activities

On November 21, the U.S. Department of Justice arrested Hong Kong’s former Home Affairs Secretary, Patrick Ho, and the former Foreign Minister to Senegal, Cheikh Gadio, who allegedly led a multi-million dollar bribery scheme in Africa designed to secure investment opportunities for Chinese conglomerate CEFC China Energy.  Although the Federal District Court filings do not specifically name CEFC, details in the complaint implicated the Chinese firm, prompting CEFC to issue a public statement on the matter.

Patrick Ho was the Secretary General of the company’s non-profit arm, China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC).  The Justice Department alleged Ho offered the President of Chad $2 million in bribes in exchange for oil extraction rights.  Investigations also concluded that the Chinese official transferred $500,000 to the Ugandan foreign minister toward the end of his term as President of the United Nations General Assembly.

CEFC has since asserted that it has no active business in Uganda or Chad.  In 2016, however, the Chinese firm acquired a 35% stake in a Chadian oil exploration project from CPC Taiwan, which was aiming to mitigate its risk associated with the project.

These revelations have helped illuminate other high profile CEFC projects and associations globally, including the special advisory role of the company’s Chairman, Ye Yianming, to President Zeman of the Czech Republic as well as to the president of the UN General Assembly in 2015, its rapid spread though Central/ Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa and even its surprising deal to acquire a 14% stake in Russian oil major, Rosneft.

The company has received significant financing from Beijing’s policy bank, China Development Bank, and has been known to hire top officials from China’s state-owned energy companies as well as the Communist Party.