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Updated December 20th, 2023 at 15:27 IST

Australian court's landmark verdict: Businessman guilty of plotting political interference for China

Duong, 68, was charged under the legislation introduced by the Australian government in 2018 aimed at curtailing foreign meddling.

Digital Desk
Di Sanh Duong
Di Sanh Duong | Image:AP
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Melbourne: In a groundbreaking ruling, the County Court of Victoria in Melbourne has delivered its first-ever conviction under Australia's foreign influence laws, finding Di Sanh Duong, a well-known Australian businessman, guilty of planning acts of foreign interference on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The court's decision on Tuesday marks a significant milestone in Australia's effort to combat foreign influence in domestic politics, highlighting the nation's concerns regarding Beijing's alleged attempts to sway Australian affairs.

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Here is what you need to know

According to a report from CNN news, Duong, 68, was charged under the legislation introduced by the Australian government in 2018 aimed at curtailing foreign meddling. His conviction for preparing to act on behalf of a foreign entity carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. The case centered on Duong's covert attempts to exert influence by facilitating a substantial donation to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 2017, intended as a way to clandestinely gain favor with a former federal government minister, Alan Tudge.

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During an event at the hospital in June 2020, Duong presented Tudge with a sizable donation of 37,450 Australian dollars from the Oceania Federation of Chinese Organizations. Prosecutors alleged this act was an endeavor to sway Tudge without any allegations of impropriety against the minister.

Wiretapped phone calls played a crucial role 

Key to the prosecution's argument were wiretapped phone calls in which Duong discussed the significance of his relationship with Tudge, deeming the minister a potential future prime minister of Australia. Prosecutors asserted that Duong's ties with the Chinese state security officials, coupled with his aspiration to cultivate connections with influential political figures, rendered him susceptible to Chinese influence operations.

Patrick Doyle, the prosecution lawyer, highlighted the United Front Work Department's modus operandi, aiming to cultivate relationships and generate support for the CCP among elites abroad. He emphasized that Duong's connections and former political affiliations made him an appealing target for such foreign influence activities.

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The businessman will be sentenced next year 

In a revealing wiretapped conversation, Duong asserted, "When I do things it never gets reported in the newspaper, but Beijing will know what I'm doing," implying his close ties to Chinese state authorities. Duong is set to be sentenced next year.

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Published December 20th, 2023 at 15:27 IST

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