Epic gambling spree for Huang at The Star
Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo withdrew $3 million worth of chips at Sydney’s Star casino and hit the tables on Good Friday, 2015.
The Australian Financial Review reports that over six hours that afternoon and evening, the property developer was embraced by lady luck, in a winning streak that would have made even the house nervous.
When he finally cashed out at 10:51pm, Huang had won $4.97 million, while his account balance at the Star was double that amount, according to documents tendered to the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption on Thursday.
“Someone had had a fairly successful afternoon,” said Scott Robertson, as part of the counsel assisting the inquiry.
But Huang was not finished for the evening.
One was job was required.
Three minutes after cashing out his chips, Huang’s employee, Gary Wong, withdrew $100,000 in cash from “the cage” at one of the Star’s private gaming room.
“Due to the large amount of money involved this transaction is considered suspicious,” the casino said in its files at the time.
The casino documents were the final revelation in an inquiry that has done more than any other to help us understand how China’s Communist Party operates in Australia through conduits like Huang.
Huang courted NSW Labor secretary
The inquiry laid out how Huang courted the likes of former opposition leader Bill Shorten and party apparatchik, like Jamie Clements.
The cash withdrawal from the Star was the missing link in the ICAC investigation, which began in late August with the extraordinary claim that Huang had used 12 fake donors to illegally disguise a $100,000 donation to the New South Wales Labor Party.
As a property developer, he was banned from making donations in the state.
The commission alleges Huang personally carried the money into Labor’s Sydney headquarters in an Aldi shopping bag on the first working day after Easter and handed it to New South Wales Labor’s general secretary Jamie Clements.
Both men deny this happened, even though text messages show they had a meeting on April 7 and the money was banked two days later.
Despite a series of revelations through the six weeks of public hearings, it was never clear where Huang had obtained such a large amount of cash.
With theatrical flourish, the commission waited until the last witness on the last day for its big reveal.
Star witnessed called late in hearing
Just before noon last Thursday, it announced an “additional witness” who had not previously appeared had been called to give “significant evidence”.
Soon after 3pm, Kevin Houlihan, a group investigations officer at the Star, took the stand and talked the commission through Huang’s big night of gambling.
His supporting statement would also reveal how Huang had gambled $64.76 million at the Star within a five-day period around Easter 2015, before heading to Melbourne’s Crown Casino for more.
The Star money came from a $5 million “buy in” Huang transferred from Hong Kong to an account controlled by Wong, a registered junket operator who received a commission on everything his clients gambled.
The ICAC documents indicated after being up about $7 million that Easter, Huang finished around even, before transferring his money to an account at the National Australia Bank.
The sudden appearance of Houlihan from The Star at the ICAC hearing on Thursday gave the impression Huang’s gambling records had only just been discovered, but timestamps indicated these were printed and handed over more than a year ago.
The commission will now break for Christmas and next year will deliver a report sure to act as a template for global law enforcement agencies seeking to investigate Chinese interference in liberal democracies.
The inquiry laid out how Huang courted the likes of former opposition leader Bill Shorten and party apparatchik like Clements with political donations, expensive meals and gifts.