A prominent community leader was “cultivated” over many years by the Chinese government to influence politics in Australia, a jury has been urged to find. Melbourne businessman Di Sanh ‘Sunny’ Duong is facing trial in Victoria’s County Court on a single charge or preparing or planning to exert foreign influence on former Liberal minister Alan Tudge on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Mr Duong is the first person to be tried under Australia’s foreign interference laws, introduced by the then-Turnbull government in 2018. He has pleaded not guilty, with his lawyer, Peter Chadwick KC saying the allegation was “denied in the strongest possible terms” his client sought to influence Mr Tudge. The prosecution case centres on a $37,400 donation made by Mr Duong as the president of the Oceania Federation of Chinese Organisations from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in June 2020. At the time, the donation was framed as a token of Chinese-Australian community solidarity during the Covid-19 pandemic, but prosecutors allege Mr Duong had an ulterior motive. By bringing Mr Tudge in to accept the donation, crown prosecutor Patrick Doyle SC argued he was attempting to cultivate a friendly relationship with the minister for a future approach on behalf of the CCP. Ending his closing argument on Thursday, Mr Doyle said Mr Duong had too been cultivated, most likely over a number of years, by a Chinese government agency called the United Front Work Department. “He’s very proud of his Chinese heritage, over time the Chinese Communist Party has tapped into these aspects of his character — particularly his patriotism,” he said. “There can be no doubt that Mr Duong has taken to heart the connection to the motherland that the United Font system has been designed to inculcate.” The United Front, Mr Doyle said, runs a global program of influence directed mostly towards the 40 million ethnic Chinese people living overseas, seeking to co-opt them to advance the agenda of the CCP. Over two days, Mr Doyle took the jury through intercepted calls, WeChat messages and Mr Duong’s police interview he said should leave no doubt the successful stonemasonry business owner intended to cultivate Mr Tudge on behalf of, or in collaboration with, the United Front. He said that while the case was circumstantial, because the prosecution could never know what was in Mr Duong’s mind, the evidence fit together like a “mosaic”. As an example of the type of influence Mr Duong would allegedly seek, Mr Doyle pointed to a letter written in March 2019 to the then-Victorian Liberal Party president Robert Clark. The letter titled “Ideas for your consideration: Australia and China as partners for the creation of a win-win economy”, suggested a number of policy proposals for Mr Clark to take to his federal counterparts. These included signing up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, allowing China to build a high-speed train from Melbourne to Brisbane and use their “human resources” to turn undeveloped land into food-producing areas to sell back to China. “The letter to Mr Clark is an example of United Front work,” Mr Doyle alleged. “Promoting Chinese Communist Party interests when you see an opportunity … that connection was never to be disclosed.” The trial will return on Friday as Mr Chadwick is expected to begin his closing remarks to the jury.