$100,000 withdrawn from casino days before same amount banked by NSW Labor, ICAC hears

Monday 16th December 2019

Related Story: Former Labor MP blames 'alcoholic blackout' for fundraiser memory loss

A corruption inquiry has heard $100,000 cash was withdrawn from a gambling junket for Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo at Sydney's Star casino days before the NSW Labor party banked the same amount.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating whether the exiled property developer was the true source of the allegedly illegal donation, which was banked on April 9, 2015.

The commission heard from The Star's group investigations officer Kevin Houlihan, who was asked to review the gaming records of large junkets set up for Mr Huang.

Mr Houlihan provided documents which show a gambling junket with a $5 million buy-in was established on April 3 that year, funded by a cheque from Mr Huang, and including both Mr Huang and his staff member Wun Chi Wong as players.

The ICAC heard registered players had clearance to make chip or cash deposit and withdrawals while a junket was active.

The commission was shown records of a $100,000 cash withdrawal requested by Wun Chi Wong the same day the junket was set up.

The casino took surveillance records which stated: "Due to the large amount of money involved this transaction [was] considered suspicious".

It recorded Mr Wong departed in a white Audi.

Less than a week later, NSW Labor and Country Labor banked $100,000.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Scott Robertson, said Mr Wong emailed the commission indicating he was overseas and "doesn't wish to accept an invitation" to give evidence.

Mr Huang denies he was the source of the donation.

In August, the commission heard Mr Huang allegedly visited Labor Party headquarters and handed a shopping bag containing $100,000 in cash to then-NSW Labor General Secretary Jamie Clements

The ICAC probe has been investigating a March 2015 Chinese Friends of Labor fundraising dinner and whether attendees were used as "straw donors" who gave smaller amounts to disguise the larger donation, therefore circumventing NSW political donation laws.

Former Labor MP Ernest Wong had claimed one donor, Quanbeo "Leo" Liao, gave $10,000 in cash at the dinner.

Mr Wong alleged he had later been told by party headquarters to disclose that amount in two separate transactions to get around the $5,000 cap for individuals.

Commissioner Peter Hall QC questioned why such large donations were given in cash.

"All these donations we've heard about that were allegedly made all seem to be made in cash," he said.

"In this modern day and age when people use electronic transfers -- and prior to that cheques -- this seems to be an exception."

Thursday was the final day of the public hearings.

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