A Chinese-Australian billionaire funded UN bribes investigated by the FBI, an Australian politician alleges

United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York City.

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United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York City.
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Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images

  • An Australian billionaire and political donor allegedly funded a $200,000 bribe to a former president of the UN General Assembly, according to an Australian MP.
  • The MP said he “confirmed” the identity of the alleged co-conspirator from US authorities.
  • $1.3 million in bribes were prepared for the UN president in hopes of helping Chinese business interests.
  • Billionaire Chau Chak Wing is an influential donor who has attracted attention in the past.

An Australian MP took an extraordinary step on Tuesday night when he claimed a mystery co-conspirator in an FBI bribery case is a Chinese born, Australian billionaire.

Andrew Hastie, the chair of Australia’s intelligence and security committee, identified political donor and philanthropist Chau Chak Wing as “co-conspirator 3 [CC-3]” who allegedly funded a $200,000 bribe to UN General Assembly president John Ashe in 2013.

Hastie met with US authorities last month where he said he “confirmed” the identity of CC-3, and then made the statement in parliament, a forum exempt from defamation laws, which Chau has used to sue multiple media outlets in the past.

“During discussions with US authorities I confirmed the long-suspected identity of CC-3. It is now my duty to inform the House and the Australian people that CC-3 is Dr Chau Chak Wing,” Hastie said.

“CC-3 is a Chinese-Australian citizen, he has also been a very significant donor to both of our major political parties. He has given more than $4 million since 2004, he has also donated $45 million to universities in Australia,” he said. [It is] the same man who conspired to bribe the UN president of the general assembly John Ashe.”

An FBI indictment previously referred to CC-3 as a Chinese real estate developer who requested Ashe’s attendance, in an official capacity, at a conference in China in return for a $200,000 payment. At that conference, Chauk and Ashe were photographed together, according to Hastie.

He added: “On November 4, 2013, John Ashe confirmed receipt of the $200,000 from China from one of CC-3’s companies.”

A number of defendants were convicted for supplying Ashe with $1.3 million in bribes, which he spent on Rolex watches, bespoke suits, BMW lease payments, and even a basketball court. The bribes were given in order to advance Chinese business interests. Ashe died before he got to trial.

“For reasons that are best undisclosed, the US government did not seek to charge CC-3 for his involvement in the bribery of John Ashe,” said Hastie, adding that Chau has consistently disputed similar allegations in the past.

Hastie also suggested a link between Chauk and China’s overseas influence arm, United Front. According to a government cable sent by a US consul general in China and described by Hastie, Chauk was allegedly the head of a business association that included the director of the United Front department and the association was “essentially a creature of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front program.”

According to research by China expert Anne-Marie Brady, some of United Front’s activities include “co-opting” members of the elite to promote Beijing’s interests and using business people with links to the Chinese Communist Party to orchestrate targeted political donations.

Chau previously told The Australian he didn’t have any connections with United Front.

“For clarity, I am not and have never been a member of the Chinese Communist Party, and I completely reject the suggestion I have acted in any way on behalf of, or under instruction from, that ­entity,” he said.

Chinese interference is gaining more attention in Australia

China's national flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium, August 8, 2008. The stadium is also known as the Bird's Nest.

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China’s national flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium, August 8, 2008. The stadium is also known as the Bird’s Nest.
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Jerry Lampe/Reuters

Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton warned that countries need to take China’s political interference “seriously.”

“What we’re seeing now is a desire by China to extend its influence and project its power. First throughout Asia – then, throughout the world,” Clinton said. “I would hope that Australia would stand up against efforts under the radar, as we say, to influence Australian politics and policy.”

Relations between Australia and China have significantly deteriorated since December last year when Canberra proposed broadening the definition of foreign interference, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull citing “disturbing reports about Chinese influence.”

“The central pillar of the government’s counter foreign interference strategy is sunlight,” said Hastie on Tuesday.

“In Australia it is clear that the Chinese Communist party is working to covertly interfere with our media, our universities, and also influence our political processes and public debates.”