NSW Labor boss 'met Huang before donation'

Former NSW Labor boss Jamie Clements has given evidence to the ICAC about cash donations.
Former NSW Labor boss Jamie Clements has given evidence to the ICAC about cash donations.

Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo dropped by NSW Labor offices to chat to the party's boss two days before the party banked a $100,000 cash donation, an anti-corruption inquiry has heard.

But the brief meeting in 2015 had nothing to do with the donation being examined by an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry, the party's then-general secretary Jamie Clements has told the inquiry.

Mr Clements, who resigned from the top bureaucratic role at NSW Labor in January 2016, says he didn't even know the party had banked the donation until ICAC investigators mentioned it in 2018.

ICAC is investigating whether Mr Huang was the true source of the six-figure donation - purportedly raised at the 2015 Chinese Friends of Labor fundraising dinner by 12 people.

Almost all of the 12 donors have outed themselves as "straw donors".

Mr Huang, since exiled from Australia, was banned from donating to NSW political parties because he was a property developer. He denies making the donation.

Mr Clements repeatedly rejected the suggestion he "must have known" about the donation before 2018, but accepted he had "never heard" of $100,000 arriving at NSW Labor's Sussex Street headquarters and being banked in one go.

"It would be an extraordinary event in the history of Sussex Street for such a thing to have occurred," ICAC chief commissioner Peter Hall said.

"Yes," Mr Clements replied.

The former party boss says he would have needed someone to tell him the donation had come in to become aware of it.

He denies former employee Kenrick Cheah's claims that Mr Clements met with Mr Huang then handed Mr Cheah an Aldi bag containing $100,000 just before April 9, 2015.

Mr Clements said the Sussex St meeting with Mr Huang on April 7, 2015 was in relation to the billionaire's wish to arrange a meeting with then-federal opposition leader Bill Shorten.

Mr Huang's desire to meet Mr Shorten, a Victorian MP, stemmed from him wanting to organise a meeting between a Chinese delegation and Victorian premier Daniel Andrews, Mr Clements said.

Just two days after the April 9 office meeting, Labor banked $100,000 in cash ostensibly raised at the CFL dinner.

Mr Cheah had previously taken the cash home overnight to be counted.

He said he couldn't recall discussing donations with Mr Huang on April 7 and insisted Mr Cheah oversaw fundraising efforts at the 2015 CFL dinner.

Mr Clements on Wednesday said he was given $35,000 in cash in a wine box by Mr Huang at the property developer's Mosman mansion with a letter in English explaining the money was for his legal bills.

He told the inquiry he never told the party about the "personal gift", saying he had stepped aside as general secretary at that time and hadn't thought he'd return to the job.

Mr Clements said he could see there was a risk the gift placed him in "a position of compromise" but said he didn't feel that risk.

He said his position of power was a major factor in Mr Huang trying to cultivate a friendship but added he too was cultivating the relationship, in order to have Mr Huang become a federal donor.

Property developers are not banned from donating to federal political parties.

The inquiry continues.

Australian Associated Press