February 16, 2019

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Chinese Oil Company Official Talked Arms Deals and Evading Iran Sanctions, U.S. Says

Chinese Oil Company Official Talked Arms Deals and Evading Iran Sanctions, U.S. Says
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In March 2015, Mr. Ho received an email from a person offering to provide an inventory of arms, according to prosecutors. He told the individual to “find a way to pass them onto me and we can execute that right away,” according to the email excerpts provided by prosecutors. It was a list of arms for Libya’s military, according to federal prosecutors, who did not identify the person.

A month later, according to prosecutors, Mr. Ho sent an email to another individual saying that Qatar “also needs urgently a list of toys from us.” In the same email, he said, “for the same reason we had for Libya, we cannot sell directly to them. Is there a way you could act as an intermediary in both cases?”

The two corresponded back and forth about the trickiness of embargoes, according to prosecutors.

Mr. Ho then replied, according to prosecutors: “Qatar needs new toys quite urgently. Their chief is coming to China and we hope to give them a piece of good news. Please confirm soonest.”

At one point, according to prosecutors, Mr. Ho positioned CEFC as a potential front for illegal business transactions. In 2014, he discussed the possibility that CEFC could act as a go-between for an Iranian company looking to buy precious metals in Hong Kong using money that had been blocked in China, according to email excerpts provided by prosecutors. At the time, Iran was under international sanctions for accelerating its nuclear program.

These details about Mr. Ho’s alleged discussions come as the company is slowly being taken apart by the Chinese government in Mr. Ye’s absence.

Mr. Ye was 25 when he started the company, and well-known within China even before his disappearance. He became the public face of Chinese entrepreneurship and was both a corporate leader and a diplomatic envoy overseas, posing for photographs with world leaders like President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and meeting with Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, and Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman.

Mr. Ho’s trial is set to begin on Nov. 5, but prosecutors and defense lawyers discussed with the judge on Thursday the possibility that a delay may be needed to deal with several outstanding issues.

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