ICAC hears Chinese billionaire gave $100K to NSW ALP official, breaching electoral laws

ICAC hears Chinese billionaire gave $100K to NSW ALP official, breaching electoral laws

Chinese billionaire property developer Huang Xiangmo gave $100,000 in cash to a senior NSW Labor Party official in breach of electoral funding laws, an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry has heard.

The ICAC has begun six weeks of public hearings to investigate whether NSW Labor received money from illegal sources.

The donation was disguised as a series of $5,000 donations made during a “Chinese Friends of Labor” fundraising dinner.

Scott Robertson, counsel assisting the Commission, said the inquiry follows a complaint made to the Electoral Commission about money given to the ALP at a fundraiser a fortnight before the 2015 NSW election.

According to a key witness, Mr Huang visited Labor Party headquarters in 2015 and handed $100,000 cash to the then-NSW Labor General Secretary Jamie Clements.

Mr Robertson said the $100,000 raised for the party that night was from 20 cash donations of $5,000, each of which was accordingly declared.

But he said during the course of a compliance audit the electoral commission became suspicious about the donations.

The dinner was at Eight Restaurant in Haymarket and, at the time, political donations in NSW were capped at $5,700 per source, per year.

Mr Robertson said the donations were mostly from restaurant staff — who investigators thought probably couldn’t afford it.

They were also from relatives of restaurant owner Jonathan Yee and from other donors who had links to property developers.

The Counsel Assisting said two of the donations were made by people associated with Wu International Investments Pty Ltd, Leo Liao and Steve Tong.

“Wu International is a property development company based in Chatswood,” Mr Robertson said. “Property developers are prohibited donors under NSW electoral law.

“These associations, along with the implausibility that restaurant workers would have the financial capacity to make lump sum donations of $5,000 or $10,000, led the Electoral Commission to suspect that the $100,000 cash was donated on behalf of a person or persons other than those who appeared in NSW Labor and Country Labor’s disclosures,” he said.

The commission was told that one witness, Quanbao Liao, died by suicide in 2018 the weekend before he was set to give evidence to the ICAC.

The counsel assisting said Mr Liao left notes to his wife and business partner explaining his actions.

A note to his wife said: “The real situation was that I was involved in a political donation, using my own money on this donation, which did not directly show on my bank card and credit card.”

He wrote that the prospect of having to give evidence to the ICAC reminded him of past events where his father was interrogated in China and ended up in prison.

“You know that all my life I’ve always been eager to excel, preserve my reputation or maybe it was because of integrity that I chose to take my own life,” he wrote in the note.

The ICAC heard NSW Labor General Secretary Kaila Murnain told investigators Ernest Wong — a former NSW Upper House MP — had advised her Mr Huang was the source of some of the donations that night.

Chief Commissioner Peter Hall QC is presiding over the inquiry, which is likely to run for up to six weeks.

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