Former Labor Senator Sam Dastyari has told an anti-corruption probe he believes Huang Xiangmo, the billionaire accused of delivering an Aldi bag stuffed with $100,000 to the Labor Party, was “an agent of influence” for the Chinese Government.
The secret evidence was provided to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on August 22 but was suppressed from public disclosure until Thursday.
During his compulsory interview with ICAC, the former ALP powerbroker noted that at the time, the billionaire property investor was the largest single donor to the Labor Party outside of trade unions.
“In hindsight, I now have serious questions about whether or not he was, either directly or indirectly, an agent of influence for the Chinese Government,” Mr Dastyari told ICAC.
“Mr Huang was a very, very big donor to the Labor Party.
“He was a very big donor, probably outside the trade union movement, the biggest donor.”
Mr Dastyari also confirmed he had cultivated a relationship with Mr Huang as NSW party secretary that was then transferred to his successor in the job Jamie Clements.
After Mr Clements left the job in disgrace amid a sexual harassment scandal, Mr Dastyari believes that Mr Clements went to work for Mr Huang.
“I came to the conclusion a relationship was closer than I realised when after he left the party office he went to work for him,” Mr Dastyari said.
Another former ALP secretary and a former NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendal also went to work for Mr Huang’s company, the Yuhu group.
Despite the Liberal Party and the Labor Party being warned about the Chinese Communist Party donating large sums of money to political parties in Australia by the spy agency ASIO in 2015, both the major parties continued to accept the cash.
Mr Dastyari described the Chinese Friends of Labor group, which was linked to Mr Huang and former Labor MLC Ernest Wong as “complex” and “opaque”.
“It’s always a bit complex, it’s always an opaque organisation, which I’m sure you’ve come to learn, about who exactly hold what title but essentially Ernest ran it,” he said.
Mr Dastyari said Ms Murnain was concerned in 2016 that the ALP accounts were “a shit show and “she was whinging to me about how everyone had abandoned her and she’d been left alone in the Labor Party office and we all moved on to our other careers and she was there to clean up the pieces”.
The former Labor senator admitted he was surprised by the controversy over the $100,000 donation because it was an established practice to accept money from prohibited property developer donors simply by putting the cash in the federal fundraising accounts.
While developers are banned from donating at a state level, there is no prohibition at a federal level.
“The bit that’s flabbergasted is that, that I can’t understand, is that money could legally have been accepted if that was the case into the federal campaign account, and the fact that if that isn’t what happened, I don’t, to me what’s incomprehensible about this entire enquiry,” Mr Dastyari said.
“They could have just accepted the money into the federal campaign account, which is what, how you normally take money from prohibited donors or people about the limits. The federal rules allow you to take that money.”
“You take the money, accept the money into the federal campaign account, and you fully disclose it.”