A Chinese billionaire who sits on Hong Kong’s chief executive selection committee has been found by an Australian corruption investigation to have made an illegal $100,000 political donation in the lead-up to a New South Wales state election.
Property developer Huang Xiangmo allegedly delivered the money in a plastic shopping bag to the general secretary of the New South Wales (NSW) Labor party in April 2015.
The delivery took place four days after the same amount was withdrawn from his Sydney casino junket account, a report by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said on Monday.
The ICAC has sought advice from the public prosecutor on alleged offences by 18 people involved in a corrupt scheme to hide the donation.
The allegations centre around a fundraising dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Sydney where Huang sat with state and federal opposition Labor leaders.
ICAC said a Huang employee withdrew the $100,000 from his casino account several weeks after the dinner and a few days later Huang allegedly delivered it to the Labor party official. “Mr Huang was the true source of the $100K cash,” ICAC said.
‘It’s a Coincidence’
Huang’s lawyer, Timothy Unsworth, said in evidence to ICAC it was a coincidence that $100,000 was withdrawn from Huang’s casino account days before Huang met the NSW Labor boss. He also said that Huang did not take the cash to the Labor meeting.
The NSW Labor boss, who later went to work for Huang, told ICAC he met Huang to discuss setting up a meeting with the federal Labor leader, but denied a bag of cash was handed over.
Political donations in NSW are capped at $5,000 and property developers are prohibited from donating any amount.
The ICAC report found the $100,000 donation was corruptly hidden under the names of a dozen fake donors. One fake donor took his own life on the eve of being questioned by ICAC, the report said.
Huang’s company, Yuhu Group, has previously made large legal donations to both sides of politics in Australia.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has recently sought to run a scare campaign about Labor and Chinese political interference just months out from a federal election due in May 2022.
His accusations prompted a rare statement from the head of Australia’s intelligence service that he holds no concerns about Labor’s candidates.
In 2019, as the ICAC conducted its investigation, Huang’s Australian visa was cancelled on security grounds and he was prevented from returning to his Sydney home.
Huang, whose legal name is Huang Changran, is a resident of Hong Kong, where he is a member of a committee that chooses the city’s chief executive and nearly half of its legislature.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell