If anyone with an American accent comes up to you at the bar in the next few days, asking where he might find Charlie Trie, be nice to him. You might even want to buy him a drink; he may need it. The man in question will either be an FBI agent or a Senate Governmental Affairs investigator - part of a team of six which is currently on a swing through Asia, including Hong Kong and Macau, hot on the quickly disappearing trail of the money men at the centre of the Democratic Party's fund-raising debacle. Hong Kong is probably as close as the investigators will get to the man they would like, above all, to interview: Charles Yah Lin Trie, the Arkansas restaurateur and infamous Friend of Bill, the man whose fingers have touched at least several hundred thousand dollars of the cash which the Democrats have admitted was illegally donated to their campaign coffers last year. Mr Trie is known to have left the US and by all accounts is lying low in China. The State Department was prodded by the Senate team to ask Beijing for permission to visit China to try to track down not only Mr Trie, but other names mentioned as part of the ever-expanding probe. China has, perhaps unsurprisingly, refused the request for agents to be allowed to do their sleuthing work on Chinese soil. Apart from Mr Trie, the investigators had hoped to get the chance to have a word with Wang Jun, the chairman of CITIC, whose attendance at a White House coffee session in 1996 was seized on by the US media as a scandalous link between a Chinese 'arms dealer' and President Clinton. Mr Wang has explained that the only reason he was at the President's house in the first place was because our old friend Charlie Trie took him as a guest. Nevertheless, the US visitors have plenty of work to do in Hong Kong, where a couple of Lippo Group subsidiary companies are on the list of organisations issued with subpoenas by the Senate committee requesting files and information on their links to Donorgate. Then there is Macau, where Ng Lap Seng, the real estate developer, runs the Fortuna Hotel and other concerns. Again, Mr Ng was introduced to the murky world of American politics by Mr Trie, and has admitted in interviews with the US media that he expected his donations to the Democrats to win him commercial access to American markets. At least one donation made by Mr Ng's firm in Little Rock has been found to violate the rules because the cash came from overseas. The Senate team is also passing through Taiwan, native home of Mr Trie and John Huang - the Democratic Party fund-raising vice-president at the centre of the scandals over the Asian contributions; also on their itinerary is Indonesia, where they will certainly be making requests to drop in for tea on the Riady family, whose links to Mr Huang, a former employee of their empire, were the initial spark from which the political inferno grew. Although the Senate is spending a lot of time and money on this trip, staff members concede that it is more of a last-gasp attempt to salvage at least something new from a long, frustrating process designed to get to the bottom of the fund-raising scandals. When the committee set up to hold hearings on the subject finally gets going in July, it expects to hold them without the presence of any of the key players; the hearings are shaping up to be a major, expensive anti-climax. About the only player still left in the US, Mr Huang, has said he will take the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify. The committee chairman, actor-turned-senator Fred Thompson, is clearly growing frustrated at the lack of help given by the Clinton administration in getting hold of important documents and people. Senator Thompson is annoyed that US officials have not made any efforts to ask their mainland counterparts where Mr Trie is - assuming of course, that they even know. His Republican colleague in the House of Representatives, Gerald Solomon, is so annoyed by Mr Trie's disappearance that he has suggested linking extension of Most Favoured Nation status to China's co-operation in returning him to the US to testify. Senator Thompson has written to White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles complaining that many of the documents relating to the discussions by Clinton aides on fund-raising matters either never turn up, or when they do have most of the juicy bits blanked out. It has been reported that White House staff have developed such a bunker mentality when it comes to Donorgate that whenever the subject crops up, they now write down notes in erasable markers. Senator Thompson believes that not only has his investigation been stone-walled, but that most of the juicy details of the probe have already been so widely leaked to the media, that when the hearings start, the public will greet it all with a yawn. Even worse for Senator Thompson, the latest figure at the centre of the political donations controversy, Hong Kong businessman Ambrose Tung Young, gave his cash not to the Democrats but to his own party, the Republicans. That is bad news, because the 'glass houses' syndrome is one thing the Democrats have been counting on to help get them off the hook. Wonder if Mr Tung Young will be getting a call from Senator Thompson's sleuths in Hong Kong this week . . .