International

Liberal donor denies employing man taking her to court for $1m in unpaid wages

The enigmatic Chinese businesswoman behind the creation of the Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation denies she ever employed the man taking her to court over more than $1 million in unpaid wages.

Sally Zou is a major Liberal Party donor, and is being pursued in the Federal Court by a man who says he was employed at her AusGold Mining Group and who alleges he was sacked just over two years into a five-year contract.

She has captured the attention of politicians and the media with her large political donations and almost incomprehensible posts on social media.

Sally Zou tweet including image of a cheque for $1.2 million made out to SA Liberals.

Ms Zou chipped in almost $32,000 to the South Australian branch of the party days after it won the state election in March.

That figure was well short of the $1.2 million amount featured on a cheque which she photographed, tweeted and promptly deleted during the campaign, but was never received by the Liberals.

Lee Rossetti claims he had a conversation with Ms Zou in November 2014 when she agreed to employ him as the general manager of AusGold's mine near Broken Hill, in far-west New South Wales, on a salary of $250,000 a year.

But when he was sacked in April 2017, he claims he had only been paid $218,000 for about two years' work.

Mr Rossetti is pursuing Ms Zou not only for the money he was underpaid while working for AusGold, but the money he would have earned had his contract not been cut short, as well as unpaid superannuation — a total of about $1.15 million.

In court documents obtained by the ABC, Ms Zou's lawyers argued Mr Rossetti was never employed full time and was only hired as a consultant.

Ms Zou's lawyers claimed Mr Rossetti's demands for $250,000 a year were never agreed to and that the company paid Mr Rossetti $218,000 after receiving invoices from him for "consulting services".

The lawyers also argued Mr Rossetti had not got another job since leaving AusGold, and the company should not be liable for lost earnings if he had not made an effort to mitigate his losses.

The next hearing in the case is slated for early May.

Ms Zou created and disbanded the Julie Bishop Glorious Foundation without the Foreign Minister's knowledge — leading to fiery scenes in Federal Parliament last year.

Her AusGold Mining group donated more than $140,000 to the party during the last federal campaign. The company is also a former sponsor of the Port Adelaide AFL club.

Ms Zou has taken out full-page newspaper advertisements in local and national newspapers spruiking her mining company, to welcome Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to Adelaide, and pleading for help to find a nice house for her family in South Australia. She owns a Rolls Royce emblazoned with the Australian flag.

Mr Rossetti's case follows claims made by former employees in Broken Hill last year, who told the ABC about being paid with cash Ms Zou carried in a backpack.

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