Man sentenced for trying to influence an MP on behalf of a foreign government

The man was attempting to influence a Federal Government Minister as part of a longer-term plan to pursue objectives of the foreign government.

A Melbourne man has been sentenced to two years and nine months’ imprisonment for trying to influence a Federal Parliamentarian on behalf of a foreign government, including a foreign intelligence agency.

Melbourne businessman and former Liberal candidate Di Sanh Duong, 68-year-old, was sentenced on 29 February 2024 by the County Court of Victoria after he was charged in November 2020 for preparing for a foreign interference offence.

AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner Counter Terrorism and Special Investigations Stephen Nutt said combatting espionage and foreign interference was a key priority for the AFP.

“Espionage and foreign interference represent a serious threat to Australia’s sovereignty and the security and integrity of our national institutions. Threats posed by foreign interference are not constrained to one sector of the Australian community nor perpetrated by any single nation.”

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A year-long criminal investigation by the AFP, as a member of the Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce, identified the man was attempting to influence a Federal Government Minister as part of a longer-term plan to pursue objectives of the foreign government.

Investigators identified that Duong, a well-known member of the Australian-Chinese community, made a significant public donation to a Melbourne hospital in what was alleged to be an attempt to obtain favour and attention.

Early intervention by the ASIO-led Taskforce ensured the Federal Parliamentarian was not compromised.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Nutt added:

“Foreign state actors undertaking these activities are intent on creating and pursuing opportunities to interfere with Australians – from decision-makers at all levels of government, across a range of business sectors, and even in our local communities.”

The AFP executed search warrants at the man’s office and home in October 2020 and he was later charged on 5 November 2020 with a foreign interference offence.

The man was the first person in Australia to be charged with a foreign interference offence since the Commonwealth Parliament passed the new National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill in 2018.

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On 19 December 2023, a jury found the man guilty of preparing for a foreign interference offence, contrary to section 92.4 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth) in the County Court of Victoria.

It is reported that the 68-year-old could be released after serving 12 months, after he agreed to pay a $3,000 bond that will last for four years.

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