An explosive foreign interference investigation of a former employee of the New South Wales Labor Party expanded to focus on money laundering after a bundle of about $60,000 cash was confiscated from a Chinese-Australian man’s Sydney home.
- A former employee of the NSW Labor party is being investigated for money laundering after a bundle of cash was found at home.
- John Zhang, former policy adviser to Senator Shaoquett Moselmane, is a major suspect in the AFP-ASIO investigation of China’s foreign interference.
- The AFP said it found evidence that Zhang had met several times with the United Front Work Department, China’s foreign influence agency.
Documents filed with the High Court by the lawyer of the main suspect, 62-year-old John Zhang, reveals new charges of investigation that have already upset Beijing and sparked retaliation charges against Australians in China in Canberra.
A joint task force, led by the Australian spy agency ASIO, is investigating whether Zhang, a senior policy adviser to former State Councilor Shaoquett Moselmane, has conspired with a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) agent to influence politicians, his party and the public.
The September ABC survey revealed that the ASIO-AFP survey attracted high-ranking Chinese consulates and leading Chinese scholars and journalists, triggering a fierce response from Beijing.
The revelation sparked accusations of repression against China, an Australian TV news anchor was arrested in Beijing and two Australian journalists evacuated after interrogation.
The new document, filed in the High Court last week and now released, contains the first clarifications of the investigation agreed between the Australian government and the eminent Sino-Australian community leader and entrepreneur Zhang.
The documents signed by Mr. Zhang and the lawyers on behalf of the Australian Government attorneys have been referred to a full judge in the High Court, which will take into account the challenges posed by the 62-year-old for the investigation and new foreign interference in Australia. law.
The document contains an agreed-upon outline of the case the police allege that the police found evidence of a meeting between Mr. Zhang and an agent of the United Front Work Department (UFWD), the Chinese Communist Party’s Foreign Influence Department.
“[His] The computer was found to contain information from AFP’s evaluation that Zhang had met and spoke with representatives of the United Front Work Department several times.
The computer was one of the items confiscated by the ASIO-AFP Task Force in the raid on Zhang and Moselmane, which coincided with the ASIO raid on four Chinese state-run journalists in June.
The document revealed that police seized “about 60,000 dollars of cash in a bundle of banknotes and envelopes” from Zhang’s house.
According to the document, “Considering the cash identified in Jang’s residential building… AFP is investigating… Jang and others suspected of money laundering.”
According to the case summary, AFP asked Jang about the cash at the time of the raid, but said that “the charges were not directly raised to Jang.
The AFP suspects that he is a member of a group of foreign agents working secretly with the UFWD and China’s main spy agency, the National Security Agency (MSS), to influence Mr. Jang’s search warrant last June. .
The warrant alleges that the group may have violated Australia’s foreign interference laws by secretly affecting politicians in “private social media chat groups and other forums” and concealing allegations of cooperation with the Chinese state.
The charges disclosed by the AFP Center in a chat group on Chinese social media platform WeChat, said Mr. Zhang and others encouraged Mr. Moselmane to defend the interests of the Chinese government within the NSW Labor Party and to the public.
AFP trying to access 2 million WeChat messages
According to the case documents, AFP spent several months accessing Zhang’s WeChat account.
AFP wants to extract and analyze more than 2 million WeChat messages found on two phones confiscated at Zhang’s home.
According to the document, Mr. Zhang’s lawyer advised that he “cannot remember” his WeChat password after a 62-year-old police officer received a court order to give him access to all the data on his cell phone.
His attorney also said he “can’t find” his password for WhatsApp, an encrypted social media platform.
Australian authorities have already secured access to at least one cell phone and laptop owned by Mr. Jang, including a search released by ABC in September at Sydney airport in January.
The document confirms that the police already had passwords for Zhang’s cell phone and laptop prior to the June raid.
They were able to take pictures of some of Zhang’s WeChat messages on the phone while raiding the house.
However, police are still taking steps to “extract, process and analyze” 600,000 WeChat messages on the second phone and 1.4 million messages on the first phone.
More suspects identified in the investigation
According to the documents, the police have identified more interested persons in evidence found at Zhang’s home and at the Sydney warehouse headquarters for his eyewear import business.
In the June raids and subsequent raids on the NSW Congress, the warrants given to Mr. Zhang have identified at least nine people in connection with the investigation.
The warrant allowed the police to search for evidence of the alleged foreign interference conspiracy in communications with Zhang and the group.
This includes the Chinese consul in Sydney Sun Yan Tao, several senior Chinese state media journalists and two leading Chinese scholars from the WeChat group.
ABC revealed that academics Professor Chen Hong and Li Jianjun earlier this year were banned from Australia by ASIO for national security reasons.
The document states that there is no prosecution for the investigation, and “AFP is continuing to consider whether simple evidence should be referred to the Federal Complaint.”
Moselmane was suspended from the Labor Party after a June raid, but was reinstated after reading last week’s record of an interview with a federal agent against the NSW Congress and stating that he was not a suspect in the investigation.
Maintaining innocence, Zhang was hired as Moselmane Senior Policy Advisor from October 2018 to September 2020.
He also served as Honorary Chairman of the Shanghai Australian Association, an influential pro-Beijing community group until early last year.
Last week, High Court Judge Geoffrey Nettle mentioned Zhang’s objection to consider on the entire bench of the court the date to be amended.
Zhang argues that Australia’s new foreign interference law, passed in 2018, is unconstitutional because it bears the implied freedom of political communication.
He is also challenging the legality of search warrants.
Jang is also claiming congressional privileges on some material seized by the police.
In a separate case, a 65-year-old Melbourne man became the first person to be prosecuted in Australia this month under foreign interference laws.
Duong Di Sanh, also known as Sunny Duong, belongs to a group involved in China’s overseas influence activities.
He can face up to 10 years in prison for offenses preparing for foreign interference.
Both Duong and Zhang are under investigation by the ASIO-AFP Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce, announced last December by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The task force includes AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial crime surveillance agency, and the administration of the Australian Signaling Authority and the Australian Geospatial Intelligence Organization.