In 2014, it was revealed that a number of Liberal Party MPs received Rolex watches with a total value of $250,000 in a brown paper bag from a Chinese billionaire.
The five watches had apparently been gifted to the MPs by "colourful" Chinese businessman Li Ruipeng the previous year.
In 2016, it was reported Mr Ruipeng who has also been linked to Queensland State LNP Member for Southport Rob Molhoek and Gold Coast City Councillor, William Owen-Jones, owed creditors in China as much as $30 million.
Apparently, the recipients of the watches, Member for Fadden Stuart Robert, Member for Warringah Tony Abbott and former Member for Groom Ian McFarlane declared them on their pecuniary interests register statements, even though they believed they were fakes. It may be difficult to believe that billionaires would give fake Rolex watches, but evidently these learned members of parliament did believe this.
It was later confirmed the items were, indeed, genuine Rolex watches. Once it was discovered they weren’t fakes and were, in fact, valued at a quarter of a million dollars, the members of Parliament (including Stuart Robert) indicated that the watches were returned.
It has been revealed Mr Ruipeng provided watches said to be worth approximately $250,000 in total to MPs at the 2013 dinner.
Mr Robert said the watches had since been returned.
Robert was given two watches with an estimated total value of $100,000 — one for himself and one for his wife, Chantelle Robert. Despite saying he had returned the two Rolex watches, Robert does not appear to have updated his pecuniary interests statement to reflect their return. Officially, then, he still has them.
Strangely, according to documents recently tabled in Queensland State Parliament, former Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale also came into possession of two Rolex watches – one men’s and one lady’s – around the same time as Robert came into possession of his men’s and lady’s watches.
Interestingly, these same documents link Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s office and Pisasale, alleging misconduct concerning sourcing visas for young Asian women.
Pisasale, resigned from office wearing a dressing gown and citing ill-health on 6 June 2017. He did so amid a corruption investigation, soon after he was charged with extortion and assault.
'Paul Pisasale is facing serious charges, including corruption, extortion and assault.'
Pisasale and Robert are well known to each other. In June 2015, then Assistant Minister for Defence Robert was the keynote speaker at an Ipswich event – attended by Pisasale – about the future expansion of Amberley RAAF Base. They also both appeared at Operation Belcarra, the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission inquiry into local council misconduct claims.
According to the documents tabled in Queensland State Parliament, Pisasale
'... had two Rolex watches which he had a council staff person take to a Brisbane Street Jeweller in Ipswich to have some links taken out of the men's watch.'
The watches, in a 'his and hers boxed set', were confirmed by the jeweller as being 'very expensive watches’.
Today, there are two jewellers in Brisbane Street, Ipswich: Brad Kearton Jewellers and Yung Tang Jewellers. It is unknown if these jewellers were in business in Brisbane Street. Ipswich, at the time in question, or if either is the jeweller to which the documents refer.
It is usual when one purchases Rolex watches worth $100,000 for the jeweller to ensure that the watch fits before the customer leaves the jewellery store. It is a curiosity why Pisasale needed both watches adjusted at the same time by a jeweller other than the one from where he purchased the watches — unless, of course, they were a gift.
So, if the watches were gifted to Pisasale, who gave him such a generous gift?
Thankfully, all genuine Rolex watches have a serial code, so if Pisasale watches can be found, it should be possible to track down where the watches were originally sold and to whom.
Robert and Pisasale share other similarities. Both have chequered political histories — Pisasale at a local government level and Robert, far more prominently, at the Federal. It is not a long bow to draw that the two sets of watches may be connected, somehow. Any connection between the two sets of "very expensive" his and hers watches would be easily dispelled by written testimony from Robert, including the serial numbers, confirming he has returned his two Rolex watches worth $100,000 to Li Ruipeng in China. An update to his pecuniary interests register is also well overdue in relation to those watches.
It’s time for Pisasale and Robert to come clean about their Rolex watches.
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