‘Made-up story’: I was never given Aldi bag of cash

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - BRAD NORINGTON ASSOCIATE EDI­TOR

Former NSW La­bor head of­fice boss Jamie Cle­ments says Chi­nese prop­erty de­vel­oper Huang Xiangmo never gave him a bag con­tain­ing $100,000 cash at a meet­ing in his Syd­ney of­fice — and dis­missed the claim as a “made-up story”.

Mr Cle­ments con­firmed to a cor­rup­tion in­quiry on Thurs­day he did meet the Chi­nese bil­lion­aire two days be­fore $100,000 cash was banked in party ac­counts in April 2015.

But he said he did not learn about the NSW ALP hav­ing re­ceived and banked such a large do­na­tion un­til much later, when he had left his po­si­tion.

He in­sisted Mr Huang’s pur­pose dur­ing a 10- to 15-minute visit to his of­fice was to ask him to ar­range a meet­ing with then fed­eral La­bor leader Bill Shorten.

“I re­call call­ing Bill Shorten while he was in the room,” Mr Cle­ments said in sworn ev­i­dence to the NSW In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion Against Cor­rup­tion.

The former party boss said Mr Huang hosted Mr Shorten and him­self at din­ner in a pri­vate room of Master Ken’s Seafood Restau­rant in Syd­ney’s Chi­na­town a few weeks later.

Mr Cle­ments re­called Mr Huang want­ing Mr Shorten to or­gan­ise a meet­ing with Vic­to­rian Pre­mier Daniel An­drews re­lated to a vis­it­ing pro­vin­cial Chi­nese business delegation. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Cle­ments, Mr Shorten sent some glasses of “Grange” to his staff in an ad­join­ing tea room.

He said he re­ceived a text some weeks later from a Huang associate say­ing Mr Shorten had not or­gan­ised the meet­ing with Mr An­drews.

The “hon­est” de­nial from Mr Cle­ments that he ever re­ceived $100,000 cash in a bag from Mr Huang puts him at di­rect odds with ev­i­dence from a still-serv­ing NSW La­bor official, Ken­rick Cheah. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Cheah’s ver­sion, he saw Mr Huang walk into head of­fice to see Mr Cle­ments car­ry­ing an Aldi shop­ping bag in April 2015.

Mr Cle­ments al­legedly gave the bag to Mr Cheah to count the cash — all in $100 notes — and it was banked the next day.

ICAC faces a pos­si­ble dilemma in de­ter­min­ing the facts of an al­leged at­tempt to hide Mr Huang as the true source of the $100,000 cash us­ing “fake” donors who now

ad­mit they gave no money. Mr Cle­ments said it was pos­si­ble Mr Huang did bring a bag into his of­fice, although he had no re­call and any bag would nor­mally con­tain wine as a gift.

Dur­ing fierce cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, bar­ris­ter Arthur Moses SC for the NSW ALP claimed Mr Cle­ments had been “com­pro­mised” in his role as party sec­re­tary by ask­ing Mr Huang for $10,000 cash in May 2015 — a month af­ter a $100,000 do­na­tion was banked — to help a NSW union leader want­ing money for his elec­tion.

“I never felt like that, no,” Mr Cle­ments replied, also re­ject­ing he was com­pro­mised in ac­cept­ing $35,000 cash in a wine box from Mr Huang to pay le­gal fees re­lated to a po­lice as­sault case.

Mr Moses said: “Mr Huang was not your personal ATM.”

Mr Cle­ments re­vealed un­der fur­ther ques­tion­ing that dis­graced former La­bor sen­a­tor Sam Dast­yari, his pre­de­ces­sor as party boss, was the “some­one” who urged Mr Cle­ments in May 2015 to ask Mr Huang for $10,000 when a union official came look­ing for help.

Mr Cle­ments said Mr Dast­yari had also “re­peat­edly bad­gered me” to meet Mr Huang when he took over as party sec­re­tary. “Sam kept bad­ger­ing me to meet him,” he said.

When he was party boss, Mr Dast­yari be­came close to Mr Huang. Their re­la­tion­ship later cost the sen­a­tor’s ca­reer, and Mr Huang now lives in Hong Kong af­ter be­ing banned from Aus­tralia for se­cu­rity rea­sons.

AAP

Former NSW La­bor chief Jamie Cle­ments takes a break from ICAC on Thurs­day

Huang Xiangmo

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