The NSW Labor Party took a $100,000 cash donation from a controversial Chinese property developer — and said it came from Chinatown restaurant workers

A suitcase filled with cash. Image: Australian Federal Police

Chinese property developer Huang Xiangmo gave $100,000 in cash to the former head of the NSW Labor Party, Jamie Clements, a corruption inquiry heard on Monday.

Counsel assisting the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, Scott Robertson, said the six-week public inquiry would examine if “straw or pretend donors” were used to hide the identity of the real donor.

The ICAC heard that one potential witness had committed suicide before giving a statement, leaving a note saying he did not want to disgrace his family.

In his opening statement Mr Robertson said Mr Huang visited ALP headquarters in Sydney shortly after the “Chinese Friends of Labor” dinner in March 2015 and delivered an envelope containing the $100,000 in cash.

Mr Clements is said to have then given the money to Kenrick Cheah, the community relations director for Labor in NSW.

Mr Robertson said the inquiry would investigate if steps were taken to “conceal the true source of the money”.

“If so, who took the steps and when? Who [if anyone] enticed, directed or encouraged others to take such steps? What were the reasons for taking those steps ?” he said.

Mr Huang was not disclosed as the source of the money when the political donations were declared.

Five restaurant workers said to have donated $10,000

NSW Labor and Country Labor declared 16 separate donations of $5,000 were made from eight individuals. A further four people were said to have donated $5,000.

Evidence tendered to ICAC heard that 18 of these $,5000 donations were declared to have come from those associated with Jonathan Yee, general manager of the Emperor’s Garden restaurant in Sydney.

His mother is said to have donated $10,000, his younger brother $5,000 while the owner of the souvenir shop next to the restaurant is listed to have given $5,000. Five employees of the Emperor’s Garden each gave $10,000.

“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 in cash was donated on behalf of a person or persons other than those who appeared … in disclosures,” Mr Robertson said.

The other two donations of $5,000 were declared to have come from two employees of property developer, Wu International.

Under NSW law, no individual is allowed to donate more than $5,000 to a political party during a single financial year.

The ICAC heard the NSW ALP circumvented these laws by having donations split between NSW Labor and Country Labor.

Sam Dastyari to give evidence

Former Labor Senator Sam Dastyari is due to give evidence to the ICAC later in the week as is Kaila Murnain, the general secretary of the NSW Labor Party.

As the chairman of a property developer, Yuhu Group, Mr Huang is banned from making political donations in NSW.

Mr Huang has been a generous political donor and often controversial figure in Australian politics, who was denied a visa to return to Australia in December 2018.

He is currently believed to be living in Hong Kong. Mr Huang is viewed as having close connections with the Chinese Communist Party and over the years has often been photographed with its senior leadership.

Mr Robertson said those associated with the Emperors Garden donations would be called to give evidence.

But Mr Robertson said Leo Liao, deputy general manager of property developer Wu International, would not be giving evidence, as he had taken his own life prior to giving a statement to the ICAC officials in June last year.

Mr Liao is declared to have paid $5,000 for a “VVIP” table at the lunch on March 12, 2015.

“I was involved in a political donation, using my own money on this donation; which did not directly show on my bankcard and credit card [statement],” Mr Liao said in a suicide note to his family read to the inquiry.

“I have decided to leave this world … to prevent you and our daughter from becoming family members of a criminal.”

This article was first published by The Australian Financial Review. Read the original here.