An Australian lawmaker has accused a Chinese-Australian billionaire businessman and a prominent political donor of plotting to bribe a top United Nations official.
Andrew Hastie, who chairs Canberra's intelligence and security committee, told parliament late Tuesday that Chau Chak Wing was the real estate developer codenamed CC-3 by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in an unsealed indictment. CC-3 is short for the third co-conspirator.
Chau allegedly arranged to pay $200,000 (€170,000) in 2013 to the then UN General Assembly President John Ashe to attend a conference in China, plus $25,000 to cover the travel expenses of those accompanying Ashe.
Hastie said US officials confirmed to him that the 63-year-old billionaire was CC-3 during his visit to the United States last month.
"CC-3 is a Chinese-Australian citizen. He has been a very significant donor to both of our major parties. The Australian people deserve the truth," Hastie said.
"It's time we applied sunlight to our political system and a person who has featured prominently in Australian politics over the past decade."
Fuel for Australia-China tensions
Hastie's claims could further fuel diplomatic tensions between Australia and China, which is being accused of meddling in Australian democratic institutions.
China has protested the Australian government's plans to introduce laws banning foreign interference in its politics — either through espionage or financial donations.
"In Australia, it is clear that the Chinese Communist Party is working to covertly interfere with our media and universities, and also to influence our political processes and public debates," said Hastie, who chairs the committee that is scrutinizing that draft legislation.
Chau has denied any links to the Communist Party.
Hastie's comments took Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull by surprise, who said he was not forewarned of Hastie's statement to parliament.
China on Tuesday called for "concrete actions" from Australia to improve relations. It said Canberra needed to "take off its tinted glasses."
Chau's lawyer rejects accusations
Chau, who has sued two Australian media houses for making similar accusations, will not be able to able to drag Hastie to court as the lawmaker made his allegations under parliamentary privilege.
Chau's lawyer, Mark O'Brien, described Hastie's accusation as "slander."
O'Brien told The Australian newspaper Chau was given a pseudonym to protect his reputation as he was never a suspect in the case.
Hastie acknowledged Chau had never been indicted by the United States, "for reasons that are best undisclosed."
ap/kms (AP, AFP)