'Blackout' prevents donation disclosure
A former NSW Labor MP says an “alcoholic blackout” has prevented him from remembering who he gave a bag of donation forms and possibly cash to after a fundraising dinner at the centre of a corruption inquiry.
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is examining whether Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo was behind $100,000 said to be donated by 12 people at a 2015 ‘Chinese Friends of Labor’ dinner.
As a property developer, Mr Huang cannot make donations to NSW political parties, and has since been exiled from Australia.
Former MP Ernest Wong previously told the inquiry he had a bag of donations worth tens of thousands of dollars after the dinner, and Mr Huang offered to take the bag with him.
Mr Wong - who was a member of the NSW upper house until March - told the inquiry this week that he could not recall who he handed a second bag containing donation disclosure forms and possibly more cash to.
“The big bag of money of course I do recall but the other bag of forms ... I have no recollection of taking that bag,” he said.
He specifically could not remember giving it to NSW Labor community relations director Kenrick Cheah.
“I had a few drinks on the night and then I actually had a bit of an alcoholic blackout after the event,” he said.
Mr Wong also admitted depositing about $20,000 into an account maintained by the Emperor's Garden restaurant at the beginning of 2015.
He said he had told restaurant manager and CFL convenor Jonathan Yee that the money could be used to either invite people to the dinner or pay for expenses.
Mr Wong conceded that he did not disclose the $20,000 as his own contribution to the dinner.
He accepted ICAC counsel assisting Scott Robertson’s assertion that he “engaged in conduct which was apt to conceal the true source of the money”.
“At least to that extent, you accept that you've been engaged in an attempt to get around NSW electoral laws, do you agree?” Mr Robertson asked Mr Wong.
“Yes, not intentionally though,” Mr Wong said.
He also said he gave a separate advance of $3,000 to Mr Yee, expecting him to donate it to the ALP for the election campaign of former state Labor leadership contender Chris Minns.
Mr Wong denied concealing its true source, saying it was a “gift”.
Former party general secretary Jamie Clements is accused of accepting the $100,000 cash from Mr Huang in an Aldi shopping bag, and handing it to Mr Cheah.