The Australian Electoral Commission yesterday released financial disclosure data for the 2013-14 financial year, revealing that the single largest donor to the ALP was an unknown China-based person named Zichun Wang. Crikey can reveal that Zichun Wang appears to be the deputy general manager of Chinese property development firm Ever Bright Group, responsible for several large developments in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.
Wang gave $850,000 to the national ALP Secretariat in two parcels that year, the largest donation to either party.
An article about the “mystery Chinese donor” in Fairfax provoked much speculation as to the identity of the generous figure, with Business Spectator discovering links between Wang and Australian real estate investment.
But Crikey can reveal the man behind the money appears to be Melbourne-based Ever Bright Group’s deputy general manager.
Ever Bright Group is responsible for building a range of large property developments primarily across Melbourne and Shijiazhuang, the largest city in Hebei province. Property developers have been banned from donating to political parties in New South Wales since 2009, but there are no Victorian or federal rules against it.
Careers website Zhaopin lists EBG as a private company.
The contact address given on the Australian Electoral Commission disclosure form for the donor is given as a housing block for retired Communist Party apparatchiks and bureaucrats in Shijiazhuang, as well as the Hebei Provincial Development and Reform Commission.
When Crikey called Ever Bright Group’s Melbourne office, the receptionist said Wang was currently in China, but gave the same contact email address as that supplied on the AEC return form.
The China-based phone number listed on the AEC form rings out.
The company’s website features a news story from March 2014 of Wang visiting Melbourne’s Carey Baptist Grammar school. Another article shows EBG Chairman Yuan Wan Yong meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and then-Victorian premier Denis Napthine in June 2014.
Ever Bright Group’s Melbourne developments have included the controversial Stonington Mansion Estate in Malvern. The estate was previously used by Deakin University as a campus, but the university sold it to private developers in 2006 in the face of protests from Stonnington City Council and former federal treasurer Peter Costello. Ever Bright paid $30 million for it in late 2010.
The company is also responsible for the $110 million Lucia luxury apartments in South Yarra. Ever Bright’s website says the development should have been completed by late 2014.
As revealed by Business Spectator, a search of usernames attached to Wang’s email address reveals a series of posts on forums by a Hebei-based user dating back to 2007 showing an interest in Australian property investments.
One comment stated: “Very interesting! I’m interested in investing, and will keep an eye on it!”