Alan Tudge targeted in alleged foreign influence plot
Exclusive: The target of an alleged foreign interference attempt in Melbourne was the Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge.
And News Corp can confirm China was the country behind the alleged plot to target the Victorian-based federal minister.
A 65-year-old man, Di Sanh Duong, also known as Sunny Duong, was charged earlier this month with preparing an act of foreign interference within Australia.
Mr Duong, who has lived in Melbourne for decades, is the first person to be charged under laws which went through the Federal Parliament in 2018, and which carry a maximum 10-year jail term.
News Corp has been told the charges do not allege an actual interference attempt, but rather a plan to attempt to influence Mr Tudge, by an organisation linked ultimately to the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr Duong has yet to enter a plea but has told the media he has done nothing wrong.
Mr Tudge's office declined to comment, citing the ongoing Australian Federal Police investigation. There is no suggestion he was influenced, or had any knowledge of any alleged plan to target him.
The case returns to the Melbourne Magistrates Court on March 11.
Mr Tudge, the member for Aston in Melbourne's outer east, is the Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure minister. He has been Acting Immigration Minister since David Coleman took personal leave more than a year ago. His portfolios bring him into regular contact with community leaders from multicultural groups across the country.
He sits in Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Cabinet.
In June, the minister appeared at a charity event where Mr Duong handed over a $37,000 cheque to the Royal Melbourne Hospital on behalf of the Oceania Federation of Chinese Organisations from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Inc, described by Mr Tudge as a "terrific community organisation.''
Security sources believe the federation is linked to the United Front Work Department, the Chinese Communist Party's overseas influence arm.
The charges against Mr Duong came after a year-long investigation by the Counter Foreign Interference Taskforce, which is led by the Australian Federal Police and the domestic spy agency ASIO.
Mr Duong, a community leader and long-time member of the Liberal Party who stood unsuccessfully in the state seat of Richmond in 1996, resigned from the party days after the charges were laid.
He was also stood down from his role as the deputy chair of the Museum of Chinese Australian History in Melbourne, pending the outcome of the court case.
Sources told News Corp Mr Duong was well known in the Liberal Party in Victoria and had for many years been active as a community leader in ethnic Chinese organisations, particularly in Melbourne's southern and eastern suburbs.
Originally published as Alan Tudge targeted in alleged foreign influence plot