A former state Labor MP could face criminal charges after the corruption watchdog ruled on Monday that one thousand $100 notes delivered to NSW Labor offices in an bag came from a prohibited donor.
The $100,000 cash donation brought to Labor’s Sussex Street headquarters in came from billionaire Chinese businessman Huang Xiangmo.
Mr Huang was a property developer and therefore banned from donating to political parties in NSW, making the donation ‘unlawful’, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said.
ICAC also found the 2015 donation was made out to have come from a group of hospitality staff and other donors.
Former NSW Labor MP Ernest Wong engaged in corrupt conduct by concealing the illegal political donations and then trying to get one of the fake donors to lie about it, ICAC found.
Huang Xiangmo (pictured) made an illegal donation of $100,000 to the NSW Labor Party, ICAC has found
‘The NSW ICAC has found that former NSW MLC Ernest Wong engaged in serious corrupt conduct by misusing the privileges to which he was entitled as a member of the Legislative Council in relation to a scheme to circumvent electoral funding laws and by attempting to procure a witness to give false testimony,’ the ICAC statement said.
The watchdog’s report said Mr Wong used his parliamentary scanner and email address to plan aspects of a Chinese Friends of Labor dinner, which was used to conceal Mr Huang’s $100,000 donation.
Two weeks after the dinner, an associate of Mr Wong arranged for 10 people to falsely declare donations using the forms, which were later used to conceal the source of Mr Huang’s donation.
‘Mr Wong knew, at the time that he procured donor declaration forms from each of the 12 putative donors, that Mr Huang, whom Mr Wong believed to be a ‘prohibited donor’, was the true source of the $100k cash,’ the ICAC report said.
Mr Huang, who had his Australian visa cancelled over character concerns in 2018, was legally represented at – but did not participate in – the inquiry.
Nor did his executive assistant Wun Chi Wang, who the commission says withdrew $100,000 in cash from a ‘junket account’ at The Star casino on behalf of Mr Huang, 솔레어 before a meeting with then NSW Labor secretary James Clements.
Former NSW Labor MP Ernest Wong (pictured) leaves the ICAC public inquiry into allegations concerning political donations in Sydney on Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Despite ‘no direct evidence’ linking the withdrawal to the donation, ICAC says other contextual evidence and ‘the fact that both of those transactions involved Mr Huang, the same amount of cash, and identical denominations’ meant it could not accept it as a coincidence.
Mr Wong also tried to have a listed donor, Steven Tong, give false testimony to investigating authorities about whether he had made donations in connection with the 2015 Chinese Friends of Labor fundraising dinner.
Mr Tong told the hearing Mr Wong confiscated his phone and put it in a drawer during a September 2018 meeting in his parliamentary office, prompting Mr Tong to take a note of the meeting afterwards.
In his contemporaneous note submitted to ICAC, Mr Tong said he told Mr Wong he was upset about being implicated in an investigation into a donation he did not make.
An Aldi bag containing $100,000 in cash was brought to the NSW Labor Party headquarters.Pictured is a stock image of an Aldi bag
The money was in the form of 1,000 $100 notes.Pictured is a stock image of $100 notes
He said he knew nothing of the $5,000 donation made in his name until he received a letter from Labor informing him he was eligible to deduct the donation from his taxes.
Mr Tong’s and another man’s evidence about the meeting was disputed by Mr Wong, but ICAC accepted their evidence over his.
‘In essence, the commission considers that Mr Wong is not a witness of credit,’ the report reads.
His evidence about the meeting was regarded as ‘internally inconsistent, at odds with the other evidence and unreliable’.
Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo splashed $12.8 million on this lavish hillside mansion in 2012 at Beauty Point in Mosman
The NSW Electoral Commission referred the matter to ICAC in January 2018 after suspicions were raised about how five donors who said they were restaurant waiting staff could afford to make substantial political donations.
Operation Aero was created to investigate and zeroed in on a Chinese Friends of Labor dinner held at a restaurant in the inner-Sydney suburb of Haymarket.
<div class="art-ins mol-factbox floatRHS news" data-version="2" id="mol-e62bed00-9865-11ec-9018-055333606128" website of $100,000 Aldi bag is FINALLY solved: ICAC rules on case