NSW Labor forfeits $100,000 allegedly donated by Chinese billionaire in Aldi shopping bag | Australia news
Labor has forfeited a $100,000 donation allegedly delivered to party headquarters in an Aldi shopping bag by banned donor and Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo.
The commission has previously heard allegations that Huang’s alleged $100,000 donation was covered up using falsified donation records from 12 straw donors who claimed to have given the money at a 2015 Chinese Friends of Labor dinner.
Several of those supposed donors have now told Icac they never made any such donations.
“It is apparent that the party cannot be satisfied upon any view at all that the persons who it is alleged made the donation at the dinner on 12 March 2015 were the true donors,” Labor’s barrister, Arthur Moses, SC, told the inquiry.
Moses said the evidence to Icac suggested the commission of an “offence or offences” in an attempt to circumvent the state’s electoral laws.
“There have been a lot of … alternative facts and nonsense which has been put forward in this inquiry in order to hide the true source of donations,” Moses said. “The ALP accepts that this is a matter that should not have been allowed to get to this stage.”
The evidence to Icac prompted the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, to announce a $100 cap on cash donations on Wednesday.
“This simple reform will mean an end to the poor accounting practices, untraceable donations and the anonymous cash that has the potential to mar our political system,” Berejiklian said. “I have been shocked by what has been uncovered at the Independent Commission Against Corruption over the last two weeks.”
The move comes as the NSW Liberal party continued to deal with its own Icac investigation this week.
The sports minister, John Sidoti, stood down from cabinet on Tuesday after Icac told the NSW government it planned to undertake a “preliminary investigation” into his property interests.
“Today I contacted premier Gladys Berejiklian and offered to stand aside from cabinet, while the Icac conducts its preliminary investigation,” Sidoti said in a statement. “The premier has accepted my offer.”
Sidoti has continued to deny any wrongdoing over revelations he held a 10% interest in a Rouse Hill property development building residential towers near the newly completed metro line. The development is being built by Ming Shang, who donated to the Liberal party in 2015. The donation has since been handed back.
“The allegations made against me by the media, and exacerbated by the opposition and the crossbench in budget estimates and parliament, are false and inaccurate,” Sidoti said. “I deny any allegations of wrongdoing.”
The inquiry into the $100,000 Labor donation has continued to hear from alleged straw donors during hearings this week.
One witness, Valentine Yee, had previously told Icac he had given Labor $5,000 cash on the night of the fundraising dinner. The evidence prompted warnings about the seriousness of giving false statements to Icac.
Yee came back on Monday to change his evidence, saying he never donated to Labor and falsely signed donation records.
He said he had done so to help his brother, Jonathan Yee, who holds a senior role with Chinese Friends of Labor.
“I was just helping my brother, Jonathan,” he said.