A former Fairfax journalist being sued for defamation by Chau Chak Wing says he felt the Chinese-Australian billionaire had been trying to "bring me into a web of patronage".
Such an attempt - through gifts and other ways - was inconsistent with his then role as a journalist, Fairfax's former Asia Pacific editor John Garnaut told the Federal Court in Sydney on Wednesday.
Garnaut, now a private consultant whose career includes working in the prime minister's office, was giving evidence in Dr Chau's legal action against him and Fairfax Media over an online story published in October 2015.
The businessman, philanthropist and political donor says the article conveys four defamatory meanings, including that he bribed former UN president John Ashe and created his Australian business empire by making illicit payments to government officials.
Fairfax and Garnaut deny the article insinuated "actual guilt", saying it suggested he was "suspected" of being involved in the UN scandal, and contend the publication was reasonable.
Garnaut said he first interviewed Dr Chau in China in June 2009, when he and his assistant refused offers to pay for their flights and accommodation.
They were whisked away from the airport in a black Bentley for a tour of various projects including Dr Chau's Imperial Springs resort, which was under construction and included a 27-hole golf course designed by Greg Norman.
Garnaut said during the interview at Dr Chau's sandstone "castle", the businessman asked "why don't I work with him" as a journalist but he replied he was very happy in his job.
Afterwards, he and his assistant were presented with gifts which he later discovered were very expensive bottles of French wine - the same gifts presented to them on another occasion.
"I immediately thought this was a major problem," Garnaut said.
He referred to a "reciprocity trap" and control, saying he decided to get rid of the Bordeaux wine in a way which "did not confer any benefit to me".
The 10 bottles, estimated to be worth $1000 each, were eventually sold at auction for $7000 and the money donated to charity, he said.
After referring to other interactions with Dr Chau, Garnaut said that, from his observations and experiences, by October 2015 he had an impression about his operating methods.
"He worked to create a shock and awe demonstration of power and wealth," he said.
Dr Chau also sought reciprocal commitments of a "special friendship" and worked to sweeten this with "luxuries and shared experiences of opulence", he said.
Garnaut also thought Dr Chau "systematically" worked to lower moral inhibitions to receiving improper benefits.
The hearing continues before Justice Michael Wigney.