NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge rejected a bail request Monday for a prominent Hong Kong businessman charged in a United Nations-linked bribery scandal, saying he was too great a risk to flee.
U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest, who set trial for Nov. 5, listened to more than an hour of arguments before saying no bail conditions could guarantee Dr. Chi Ping Patrick Ho would be at his trial.
The 68-year-old Ho, once Hong Kong's home affairs secretary, was arrested in November. He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he helped arrange millions of dollars in bribes to the president of Chad and the Ugandan foreign minister on behalf of a Chinese energy conglomerate to secure business advantages.
His defense lawyer, Edward Kim, insisted his client would never try to flee.
He said Ho "would rather be convicted at trial than flee in disgrace."
The judge, though, said she viewed the evidence as "extremely strong" and believed it might motivate him to flee.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Richenthal said Ho is trading emails regularly from prison with the company that's central in the case against him, "talking about mounting a public relations campaign for his case" and talking about the company.
The prosecutor said claims from abroad, including anonymous sources from the company itself, that the prosecution is politically motivated, "gives us great concern."
He said he believes those abroad who believe the prosecution is unfair might be motivated to help Ho escape the United States.
He said it would not be hard to flee because an electronic bracelet can be easily cut off and he also can seek refuge at the embassies of countries with no extradition treaty with the United States.
Forrest also said she was concerned about claims from abroad that the prosecution is politically motivated.
"It might not be embarrassing to flee to Hong Kong if you think the current prosecution was politically motivated," she said.
Authorities have said Ho and a co-defendant conspired in October 2014 to bribe the African government officials after wiring almost $1 million through New York's banking system. They say the Ugandan scheme was created at the United Nations in New York when Uganda's current foreign minister served as president of the U.N. General Assembly.