Liberal minister John Sidoti in Chinese donation scandal

 

A Chinese property developer in business with NSW cabinet minister John Sidoti on a $70 million development donated to the Liberal Party at a "dinner with candidate" fundraiser in the minister's Drummoyne electorate.

The developer donation - banned in NSW - has been uncovered in an explosive ­investigation into the private business interests of Mr Sid­oti, who in April this year was promoted from parliamentary cabinet secretary to Minister for Sport, Multi­culturalism, Seniors and Veterans Affairs.

Sport, Multi­culturalism, Seniors and Veterans Affairs Minister John Sidoti after a press conference about Parramatta pool on Tuesday. Picture: Adam Yip
Sport, Multi­culturalism, Seniors and Veterans Affairs Minister John Sidoti after a press conference about Parramatta pool on Tuesday. Picture: Adam Yip

The Daily Telegraph has found among the anomalies in Mr Sidoti's declarations to parliament is the failure to ­acknowledge $580,000 ann­ual rent on a three commercial properties in which he holds an interest.

"I comply with my disclosures obligations and will continue to do so," Mr Sidoti said while declining to answer a list of questions regarding his business interests.

"My pecuniary interests and other matters to be disclosed are outlined in my most recent parliamentary disclosures and I refer you to the public document."

Mr Sidoti's interest via a trust in a commercial property in Five Dock was not ­declared for six years until 2017, a trove of documents from Land Titles, ASIC and local government records and parliamentary and electoral commission returns reveal.

The property is one of two multimillion-dollar residential developments Mr Sidoti's family are undertaking on sites fortuitously located where rezonings for higher density development offer improved returns for developers.

METRO PROJECT

The most ambitious of these developments is a $70 million precinct of four eight-storey residential towers housing ­almost 300 apartments a few minutes' walk from the final stop, Tallawong, on the new $8 billion North West Metro line in Rouse Hill. Mr Sidoti has declared a 10 per cent share in this site at 38 Cudgegong Rd in Rouse Hill via JAFS Investment Trust.

Developer Ming Shang is the vice-president and owns 25 per cent of the shares in Southern Han International, the parent company on the Cudgegong Rd development, Southern Han Rouse Hill.

The $70m development of four eight-storey residential towers at 38 Cudgegong Road Rouse Hill that includes land part-owned by John Sidoti. Picture: Zhinar Architects
The $70m development of four eight-storey residential towers at 38 Cudgegong Road Rouse Hill that includes land part-owned by John Sidoti. Picture: Zhinar Architects

Ming Shang donated $1750 to the Liberal Party citing "Dinner with candidate at Phoenix Restaurant Rhodes" on 23 February 2015, NSW Electoral Commission documents show. Mr Sidoti's 2015 campaign gala dinner was held at the Phoenix in Rhodes on 19 February.

Mr Sidoti did not answer questions regarding his relationship with Mr Shang and said political donations were a matter for the Liberal Party. Mr Shang did not reply to ­requests for comment.

Premier Gladys Berejik­lian had no comment. A party spokesman said: "The NSW Liberal Party complies with our obligations under the State electoral funding and disclosure laws, and declares donations in line with those obligations. If we become aware of a donation having been incorrectly received, we will work with the NSW Electoral Commission to fulfil our obligations."

The Phoenix restaurant in Rhodes.
The Phoenix restaurant in Rhodes.

Southern Han Options from January 2014 owned an option to buy the Cudgegong Rd land and in October that year Mr Sidoti became Parliamentary Secretary for Planning, a position he held until March 2015.

The planning department's deliberations on the precinct around Tallawong metro station recommended in April 2014 that building height limits be increased from 12m to 26m - or eight storeys. The 2ha land parcel was formally transferred to Southern Han Rouse Hill and Mr Sidoti via JAFS Investment Trust for $4.1 million in March 2015, one month after Mr Shang's donation to the Liberal Party.

PLANS APPROVED

Six months later, in September 2015, Southern Han Rouse Hill submitted a development application and in March last year won approval to build the $70 million precinct of 295 apartments and 392 car spaces from the ­department's Sydney central planning panel.

The plans have been drawn up by Zhinar Architects, which is part of Southern Han International.

The same architecture firm has also designed a proposed $7.7 million five-storey development of 20 units on Great North Road in Five Dock spanning four adjacent parcels of land in Mr Sidoti's Drummoyne electorate.

The $7.7 million five-storey development of 20 units on Great North Road in Five Dock spanning four adjacent parcels of land in Mr Sidoti’s Drummoyne electorate. Picture: Zhinar Architects
The $7.7 million five-storey development of 20 units on Great North Road in Five Dock spanning four adjacent parcels of land in Mr Sidoti’s Drummoyne electorate. Picture: Zhinar Architects

The largest lot is 120 Great North Road, formerly used as a function centre when a five-year lease in 2013 determined a "basic rent" of $248,826 a year.

Mr Sidoti is named on the lease along with his spouse Sandra and parents Richard and Catherine, Land Title records show.

120 Great North Road (black building).
120 Great North Road (black building).

Ten years after the family paid $2 million in 2007 for the property, Mr Sidoti in September 2017 declared an ­interest in 120 Great North Rd on his parliamentary disclosure, but has never ­declared any rental income.

In 2013 this land was ­rezoned for mixed use commercial and residential, significantly enhancing its development potential.

PROPERTY HOLDINGS

The Sidoti family then consolidated and grew their holdings on the main street and the block behind, in three years spending almost $5 million on three properties a few doors from Mr Sidoti's electoral office.

Mr Sidoti belatedly ­declared an interest in these three new lots September last year - 122-124 Great North Rd and 2 Second Ave.

The properties 122 and 124 Great North Rd were purchased for $1.62 million (May 2016) and $2.025 million ­(December 2017) respectively through Deveme Pty Ltd. In his 2018 return Mr Sidoti declared an interest in Deveme, a family trust, and its directors are his parents Richard and Catherine Sidoti. These buildings are tenanted with Land Titles records showing the annual rent is $41,000 each. Mr Sidoti has not declared this rent to parliament.