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CCP Official Sentenced to 12 Months in Jail for Trying to Influence Minister

Victorian businessman Di Sanh Duong has made history by becoming the first person to be charged and sentenced under Australia’s foreign interference laws.

After Australia’s domestic spy agency revealed that a retired federal politician was spying for a foreign power, the County Court in Victoria sentenced Di Sanh Duong to a one-year jail term for committing an act of foreign interference.

Vietnamese-born businessman Di Sanh Duong, aged 68, was found guilty by a jury of preparing for an act of foreign interference on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after a month-long trial at the County Court in late 2023.

He utilized a $37,450 (US$26,000) donation to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in an attempt to gain favor with then-federal Health Minister Alan Tudge, whom he believed had the potential to become a future prime minister.

During a recorded phone call played in court, Mr. Duong mentioned that Mr. Tudge could support them and advocate for Chinese interests.

A Novelty Cheque

Initially, Mr. Duong raised funds as president of the Oceania Federation of Chinese Organisations for COVID-19 supplies like gloves and masks.

Due to logistical challenges, the supplies did not materialize from China, and Mr. Duong presented a novelty check at a media event arranged by Mr. Tudge’s office in June 2020.

Prosecutors stated that Mr. Duong, a former Victorian Liberal Party candidate and Chinese-Asian community leader, was a skilled operative of the United Front Work Department, a global program designed to promote CCP objectives in foreign countries by influencing individuals in positions of influence.

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Mr. Duong maintained his innocence throughout the trial, but incriminating phone calls played in court revealed his connections to CCP leaders during visits to China, with him boasting about his unreported activities in the media but known in Beijing.

‘Serious Example’ of the Offence: Judge

During sentencing, Judge Richard Maidment noted that Mr. Duong took advantage of his clean record, community reputation, and Liberal Party membership to commit the crime.

Targeting a cabinet minister as the focus of his criminal intentions constituted a “serious example of a fundamentally serious offense,” the judge stated.

He handed down a prison term of two years and nine months, with Mr. Duong required to serve 12 months before being eligible for release on a four-year good behavior bond.

Throughout the legal proceedings, Mr. Duong, who had been on bail, was visibly emotional upon hearing the verdict.

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