‘Made-up story’: I was never given Aldi bag of cash
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.
Former NSW Labor chief Jamie Clements takes a break from ICAC on Thursday