Disgraced former Hong Kong minister Patrick Ho Chi-ping delivered a tearful apology on Monday in a US federal court in New York after he was sentenced to 36 months in jail and fined US$400,000 (S$540,000) over a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving top African leaders.
"I tried very hard to transform my despair into something meaningful," Ho told US District Judge Loretta Preska. "I accept full responsibility. I am deeply sorry."
"Please accept this token [of] respect and gratitude," Ho said, head bowed, at the end of his remarks, which included details about the community work he did at New York's Manhattan Correctional Centre, helping other inmates by giving classes in English, resume writing and public speaking.
Ho, who has been held in custody since November 2017, was given credit for the 16 months he has already served so will spend an additional 20 months behind bars. He was given 12 months to pay the fine.
His lawyer Edward Kim said that the defence team was satisfied with the results, and that Ho's term could be reduced to 31 months for good behaviour in prison. He said they had not decided whether to appeal, but was filing an appeals notice to preserve the ability to challenge the ruling.
Ho, 69, could also apply to serve his sentence in Hong Kong, but his legal team said it did not expect to do so. It is rare for such a practice to be allowed: in the past two decades, only three Hongkongers convicted in the US were granted the right to serve the remainder of the sentence in their hometown.
In his remarks to the judge, Ho recalled the painful feeling that he could not be with his wife and 92-year-old mother. "My wife lost her mother and [I] wasn't there to hold her hand," Ho said. "I pray every day that my mom would live a long life so she will see her son coming back."