Lawyer vows to keep practising after corruption inquiry

 

A defiant Ernest Wong has pledged to stay on as a practising lawyer after he finishes giving evidence to the corruption watchdog concerning a political donations scandal.

The ICAC has heard the former state Labor MP was one of the "masterminds" of a conspiracy to cover-up a $100,000 illegal cash donation to NSW Labor that is alleged to have come from Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo after a fundraiser in 2015.

Mr Xiangmo, who was banned from donating as a property developer, has denied making the donation while Mr Wong also rejects the allegations.

Investigators have repeatedly accused Mr Wong of lying and giving false evidence after denying he "sold" the head table at the dinner to Mr Huang for $100,000.

Mr Wong has been a senior partner at Ernest Jasper Lawyers for six months where he "leads the government affairs and administrative law practice", according to the firm's website.

Former state Labor MP Ernest Wong has pledged to keep practising law after ICAC. Picture: AAP
Former state Labor MP Ernest Wong has pledged to keep practising law after ICAC. Picture: AAP

 

But Labor heavyweights expect it's "only a matter of time" before he will be referred to the Law Society of New South Wales and dumped from the legal profession.

Asked about his intentions, Mr Wong told The Daily Telegraph: "I will stay on as a practising lawyer and if in future I need to be referred to Law Society, I am more than willing to co-operate with any request".

One Labor MP said last night: "You'd be hard pressed finding somebody in the country who'd hire the bloke as a lawyer".

"But that notwithstanding it would seem completely unacceptable that he'd carry on without somebody referring him to the Law Society - I assume it's only a matter of time," they added.

Ernest Wong leaves the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) public inquiry into allegations concerning political donations. Picture: AAP
Ernest Wong leaves the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) public inquiry into allegations concerning political donations. Picture: AAP

 

Another MP said they expected Mr Wong would "pay a really high price from a professional perspective".

"I imagine he will get a suspension for a few years," they said.

Another source said the Law Society should strip Mr Wong of any accreditation he holds if the ICAC makes an adverse finding.

"But the biggest surprise to anyone including most caucus members was that he actually held a law degree - that was a surprise to 99.9 per cent of the caucus," they said.

A NSW ALP spokeswoman said the party was "doing everything it can to assist the Commission with its inquiries".

It comes as NSW Labor officials are expected to finalise the severance package for suspended NSW Labor general secretary Kaila Murnain within 24 hours.

It's understood the payout will be at least $600,000.

Ms Murnain was dumped from the position after telling ICAC she knew about the potentially illegal donation.

The commission has adjourned until early December when Mr Wong is expected to give further evidence.