The manager of Wagga-based company Great Southern Electrical has told a corruption inquiry that he accepted $50,000 to provide training contracts to visa applicants in a scheme run by associates of Daryl Maguire.
Last week, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) began investigating allegations of corruption levelled against the former Member for Wagga Wagga, Mr Maguire.
ICAC is also investigating the company G8WayInternational, last week hearing that it was formed by a “joint discussion” between Mr Maguire and Wagga businessman Phillip Elliott.
Shaun Duffy, the manager of Great Southern Electrical, told the Commission that he met the family of visa applicant Susan Song whilst on a trip to China alongside Mr Maguire.
“[She] had just finished university in Australia and was looking for a work visa,” Mr Duffy said.
Mr Duffy was allegedly told that if he employed Ms Song for as long as it takes for her to get a visa, he would be paid to employ her by Lydia Zhang, a contact he had met on his first trip to China with Mr Maguire.
“We employed her under a training agreement … but then after that I continued to employ her because I was getting value out of what she did,” Mr Duffy said.
“Susan was what we wanted because she was able to get me contacts in China. She was able to speak the language and, and she was an accountant so she was doing calculations for me as well, on payback periods for example.”
Mr Duffy told the Commission that he had regular meetings with Maggie Wang in Wagga, after first being introduced to her at Parliament House by Mr Maguire in late 2012.
ICAC previously heard that Ms Wang worked as “specialist immigration agent” for G8WayInternational, of which Mr Maguire was a de-facto director. Mr Duffy said he wasn’t aware of the true nature of the company.
“The only time that I heard of the G8way organisation was when we were in Shenyang, and that was part of the funny shop … where the people in the Riverina were going to sell produce into China,” Mr Duffy said.
He told the Commission that during one visit to China alongside Mr Maguire, they visited a building that was portrayed as a restaurant, but no-one ever went there.
“Daryl said ‘This is where all the produce is going to be sold. We are going to import produce from the Riverina’,” Mr Duffy said.
“I thought he was being a pro-active member of parliament and helping people out in Wagga.”
Ms Wang approached Mr Duffy with the prospect of taking on a visa applicant to employ, being told that he would employ someone for a minimum of three months, be reimbursed for their wages and paid a training fee on top.
Mr Duffy said that he was paid a $50,000 training fee for Chinese national Shuanghui Zong, despite “the person never show[ing] up” for work.
“We received a letter from Maggie to say that the person – I think it was a woman – her mother was ill and she couldn’t come,” Mr Duffy said.
Mr Duffy was paid two installments of $1000, followed by $48,000 paid in cash in Wagga.
“[Ms Wang] had a big jacket on, and every spare pocket she had, she’d pull out cash,” he explained, calling the situation “quite uncomfortable.”
Mr Duffy told ICAC that he attempted to give the money back to Ms Wang, but she wouldn’t take it, despite the training never occurring and him never meeting Mr Zong in person.
When asked if he had any concerns about the legitimacy of the arrangement when he first signed the training agreement, Mr Duffy said “not really.”
“…my motive was to try and get someone to help us with, do some business in China, because it had worked before with Susan, and that’s … what we wanted to get out of it,” he said.
By the time Ms Wang showed up with the $48,000 cash, Mr Duffy conceded he ‘supposed’ he had concerns about the legitimacy, but “didn’t know the magnitude of it.”
Mr Duffy was introduced to another visa applicant by Ms Wang, who didn’t show up for any work aside from a workplace induction. Mr Duffy said he received a $30,000 fee for this applicant.
When asked if he now accepts that what he was “involved in was an immigration scam”, Mr Duffy responded “yes.”
He also agreed that he wasn’t being paid money for training, but “for facilitating visas.”