A former NSW Labor MP accused of selling a table at a fundraising dinner to a banned donor for $100,000 denies he constructed a story in an attempt to downplay his role in the scandal.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption is examining whether Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo – now banned from Australia – was the true source of $100,000 said to be donated by 12 people from a 2015 Chinese Friends of Labor dinner.
Ex-MP Ernest Wong, who was the chair of CFL, has told the commission Mr Huang volunteered to deliver a bag of cash raised at the event to Labor head office.
Mr Huang, as a property developer, was prohibited by law from making donations to NSW political parties.
Counsel assisting the inquiry Scott Robertson on Tuesday questioned Mr Wong about details he gave to ICAC in recent days, which he didn’t offer during compulsory examinations last year.
Mr Wong agreed he initially said nothing about a meeting with one of the purported 12 donors at his parliament office, or a 2016 meeting with NSW Labor’s then-general secretary Kaila Murnain.
Mr Robertson noted Mr Wong hadn’t previously provided details that he had received two bags at the end of the fundraiser – one with cash and the other with forms and spreadsheets.
“The most you did is speculated in the most general of terms that Mr Huang may have had something to do with the event on that evening and may have had something to do with the cash, correct?” Mr Robertson asked.
“Yes,” Mr Wong replied.
Mr Robertson suggested that Mr Wong, in his evidence to the public inquiry, had “constructed a story” to match the evidence he thought the commission had.
“In doing so, you’ve given false and misleading evidence to this commission. Do you accept that?” Mr Robertson asked.
Mr Wong replied: “No. Because we’re talking about a whole year since the last hearing that I’ve been able to sit down and try to refresh my memories.”
The former MP has denied suggestions during his evidence that he sold the head table at the CFL fundraiser to Mr Huang for $100,000 and sought to cover up the contribution with fake donors.
Mr Wong, under cross-examination by Ms Murnain’s lawyer Ian Neil SC, on Tuesday said he didn’t recall being set fundraising targets by then-general secretary Jamie Clements in 2015.
Mr Neil suggested the general secretary set those targets for Mr Wong to raise money to help finance the campaign of former leadership contender Chris Minns.
Labor’s lawyer, Arthur Moses SC, questioned why Mr Wong invited Mr Huang to the 2015 state election fundraiser, and sat him at the head table alongside state and federal Labor leaders.
Mr Wong said he did so because Mr Huang was a community leader.
“Are you suggesting to the chief commissioner that you invited a property developer, a billionaire, to an ALP dinner on the 12th of March 2015 and did not seek a cent from him for his seat at the head table?,” Mr Moses asked.
“Yes,” Mr Wong replied. The inquiry continues.