Investigation into former NSW Labor boss continues
Former New South Wales Labor boss Jamie Clements was flown around Australia by a Crown casino jet with Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo for business and “entertainment”, a corruption inquiry has heard.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Independent Commission Against Corruption heard that Mr Clements, the then-Labor state secretary, and Mr Huang were effectively “cultivating” each other for their own purposes in 2015.
Mr Huang wanted political influence, while Mr Clements was after donations for the Labor Party, counsel assisting the commission Scott Robertson said.
The ICAC, which is investigating an alleged scheme by New South Wales Labor to circumvent the state’s donation laws, has previously heard Mr Clements was given $100,000 in cash in an Aldi shopping bag at Labor’s headquarters by Mr Huang, although both men deny this.
The inquiry on Monday narrowed in on a series of meetings between Mr Huang and Mr Clements between April and June 2015, including one at Master Ken’s Seafood Restaurant in Sydney’s Haymarket, which was attended by then-federal ALP leader Bill Shorten in May.
A series of text messages between Mr Clements and Mr Huang’s executive assistant Tim Xu were shown to the inquiry, including one message that set out a request for the Labor boss to facilitate a “strategic partnership” between the Victorian Labor government and a visiting Chinese delegation from Jiangxi province.
“We have two urgent requests and need your help to speak to the Vic Premier’s office,” Mr Xu messaged Mr Clements on May 28, a day after the lunch at Master Ken’s.
Mr Xu asked Mr Clements to convince the Daniel Andrews government to sign a strategic partnership with the province, and host a welcoming state dinner to the delegation on June that year.
“Am working on it,” Mr Clements replied the next day.
“That was a big ask, wasn’t it?” ICAC chief commissioner Peter Hall asked Mr Xu, who agreed.
“Using hi modus operandi as his influence here requesting, in effect, Mr Clements to make this happen – that is to get the Premier of Victoria to actually sign an agreement – is that right?”
“Yes,” Mr Xu replied.
There was no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Mr Andrews or his government.
Two months after these requests, another series of texts from Mr Xu were sent to Mr Clements, outlining details of an aircraft hangar in Sydney.
Mr Xu said these were details for the private jet Mr Huang and Mr Clements would take to Melbourne in July.
“So there were occasions while you were executive assistant and while Mr Clements was the general secretary of the Labor party that he had access to a private plane to travel somewhere for meetings but also perhaps for social events as well,” Mr Robertson said.
“Yes,” Mr Xu replied.
Chinese billionaire, Crown & NSW Labor
Chinese billionaire and Crown Casino high roller Huang Xiangmo’s relationship with former New South Wales Labor party boss Jamie Clements and ex-state MP Ernest Wong will be the focus of fresh corruption commission hearings next month.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported in June that the Independent Commission Against Corruption will examine serious allegations of subversion of state election donation laws.
Also of “significant public interest” to the corruption watchdog is possible foreign influence on the New South Wales electoral process by Chinese business figures, some of whom are understood to have close ties with the Chinese government.
The report also reveals that Mr Huang is an $800 million per year Crown Casino high roller, and such a big punter that it used him as a case study of the benefits of uber-wealthy Chinese gamblers moving to live in Australia.
Leaked Crown documents that form part of an ongoing investigation can also reveal how Mr Huang dealt with powerful former Labor Party operatives working for Crown Casino, even after ASIO warned Labor and the Coalition about him in August, 2015.
Mr Huang was expelled from Australia by ASIO over his foreign influence activities.
As the fallout from this investigation continued, the federal government on Tuesday ordered a national integrity watchdog to examine a string of allegations about the conduct of Commonwealth officials linked to Crown’s operations.
The Herald has previously revealed the Independent Commission Against Corruption has been investigating New South Wales Labor concerning allegations of a “scheme to evade” the state’s electoral funding laws.
Details of the ICAC investigation came to light after New South Wales Labor registered a formal complaint about ICAC executing a search warrant at its headquarters last December.
An investigation was undertaken by the independent inspector of ICAC, Bruce McClintock, SC.