The developer behind the multi-billion-dollar Gold Coast Jewel and One Circular Quay projects, Huang Xiangmo, handed over $100,000 in cash to former NSW Labor party boss Jamie Clements during a private meeting at his office, a corruption inquiry has heard.
The NSW anti-corruption watchdog conducted its first public hearing of a six-week-long inquiry into allegations concerning political donations on Monday.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption—ICAC—will investigate if the state Labor party bent donation rules and hid a $100,000 donation from Huang in the lead up to the state election.
Counsel assisting the commission Scott Robertson said that financial records tendered to the ICAC by NSW Labor claimed that $100,000 was recorded as having been received at a Chinese Friends of Labor fundraising dinner in March 2015.
The inquiry heard that the $100,000 was purported to have come from employees of Sydney’s Emperor’s Garden Restaurant, and from family members of its general manager Jonathan Yee.
“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 [o]ther than those who appeared on [Labor’s] disclosures,” Robertson said.
NSW Labor community relations director Kenrick Cheah informed investigators that Huang had attended the office of then-ALP general secretary Jamie Clements more than three weeks after the dinner and handed over a $100,000 cash donation.
Cheah told the ICAC that he received the $100,000 cash tied together in rubber bands in an Aldi shopping bag from Clements.
Robertson said the ICAC will investigate if “straw [or] pretend donors” were employed by NSW Labor to conceal the fact that Huang was the true source of funds.
NSW banned property developers from making political donations in 2009.
Huang is known to have been a significant donor both of the Australian Labor Party and to the Liberal Party of Australia.
Robertson said that Huang had been invited to participate in the commission but had declined.
Huang, who had his Australian permanent residency revoked over political interference concerns, was the head of property development giant Yuhu Group, with alleged ties to the Chinese government.
It has been reported that the developer and his son had quietly sold down their stake in the two projects totalling more than $3 billion.
The inquiry also heard on Monday that witness and donor Leo Liao, deputy general manager of property developer Wu International, had committed suicide before giving evidence last year.
Liao wrote that he was innocent and that the request for evidence reminded him of “past events where my father was being interrogated in China”.