Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Casino billionaire bankrolls Labor, by Brendan Nicholson - The Age - 2nd February 2009

Figures linked to Macau-based casino magnate Stanley Ho have donated well over $1 million to the Labor Party.

One donation of nearly $500,000 was rejected by the Federal ALP after an internal investigation indicated "it was not a donation we should accept", the party's assistant national secretary, Nick Martin, told The Age.

The $499,980 was sent back to Mr Ho's wife, Angela Leong, who has also been identified in media reports as a friend of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

But donations totalling more than $1.4 million were accepted by the ALP's NSW branch from Mr Ho and his associates.

One donation of $400,000 to NSW Labor came directly from Mr Ho on October 31, 2007, and was followed by another $200,000 from him on May 29, 2008.

Then there were two more donations of $50,000 each from Mr Anthony Chan, who is an executive director of Mr Ho's company Shun Tak Holdings.

One of the biggest donations in the returns produced yesterday by the Australian Electoral Commission was $600,000 given to the NSW ALP on September 11, 2007, by a Gold Coast-based company called Hungtat Worldwide Pty Ltd, which again has been linked to Ho.

In 2006 another donation of $109,000 was made by Joyce Chan on behalf of Mr Ho.

The Opposition's shadow minister of state, Michael Ronaldson, said the donations made through NSW appeared to be a way of getting the money indirectly to federal Labor.

Senator Ronaldson said Mr Rudd must explain why some of the money was rejected and other donations were accepted.

"What did Mr Ho want in return and what knowledge did Mr Rudd have of this donation?" Senator Ronaldson said.

"It beggars belief that Mr Rudd didn't know about a donation of this size and clearly it was a back-door way of getting money into the federal campaign after they'd had to knock back the donation made directly," Senator Ronaldson said.

"The whole deal simply doesn't pass the sniff test."

Mr Rudd's spokeswoman referred inquiries to Labor's national secretariat.

Officials from the NSW branch could not be contacted for comment.

ALP national secretary Karl Bitar said in a statement the party supported a more transparent system of electoral funding and disclosure.

"We support the reforms announced by the Rudd Labor Government, which are now being blocked by the Liberal Party in the Senate," Mr Bitar said.

"In the return released by the AEC today there is a returned donation from one source. Given the size of the donation, the ALP conducted a due diligence assessment of this donation and decided that it should be returned.

"We conducted due diligence and made a decision this was not a donation we could accept."

Mr Bitar did not explain why the NSW branch decided to accept Mr Ho's money.

Driven by opposition to the Howard government, unions provided the ALP with $9.2 million.

The biggest union donation was $1.5 million from the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association. (Credit: The Age)

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