Former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire admitted that he sought to “monetise” his parliamentary office and use his status as an MP for personal financial gain when he appeared before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) this week.
ICAC has spent the last four weeks investigating Mr Maguire, hearing from numerous witnesses and viewing hundreds of pieces of evidence, following allegations that he breached public trust by using his position for personal benefit.
The investigation, known as Operation Keppel, has also been looking into the activities of G8WayInternational of which Mr Maguire was a de-facto director.
Mr Maguire admitted to a number of allegations as counsel assisting Scott Robertson grilled him on six years of business deals during Wednesday’s hearing.
Mr Robertson asked quite early in the hearing whether the former MP had sought to “monetise” his position in Parliament.
“What I’m suggesting is you sought to use your status … with a view to making money for yourself and making money for your associates?” the counsel assisting asked.
“Yes,” Mr Maguire responded.
When questioned on the cash-for-visa scheme, which has been a large focus during the hearings, Mr Maguire admitted to receiving thousands of dollars in cash in his parliamentary office from former business associate Maggie Wang, who appeared before ICAC twice during the current investigation.
He couldn’t recall how many times these payments occurred.
He also admitted that he knew the scheme, which he “effectively” controlled and admitted was a “scam”, involved lying to “immigration officials”.
Mr Maguire argued, however, that he had believed the scheme was legitimate.
He said that he’d had a “heated discussion” with Ms Wang and told her that “you cannot put people at risk by breaking the rules”, and that she had “promised” in 2013 to fix the scheme when Wagga businessman Peter Wood complained of his worker not turning up.
However, Mr Maguire eventually conceded that he knew it was “not a legitimate immigration scheme.”
“And you decided to proceed anyway because there was potential money for you in the event that you continued to refer businesses into this immigration scheme. Do you agree?” Mr Robertson asked Mr Maguire.
“Yes,” Mr Maguire replied.
“You must agree that it was a breach of the public trust placed in you to proceed with this immigration scheme, correct?” Mr Robertson asked.
“Yes,” Mr Maguire answered.
The inquiry also probed the actions of G8WayInternational during Wednesday’s hearing, for its involvement in the visa scheme plus other ventures.
Counsel assisting was shown evidence that in 2012, G8Way sent invoices to a Chinese company that included “an introductory service” fee following an event that involved a meeting between then-Premier Barry O’Farrell and a Chinese delegation wishing to build a $400 million Trade Centre in Wagga Wagga.
When questioned on this, Mr Maguire said that this was handled by his staff and that he didn’t know why the invoice had been sent.
“I don’t know why that occurred. All I recall is that there was a big kerfuffle about getting paid and that an invoice had to be created,” he told the Commission.
Mr Maguire was also asked about a potential property development in Sydney, and seemed to insinuate that his involvement in this was no more than networking.
“We network, politicians network, that’s our lifeblood,” Mr Maguire said.
“Yes but people don’t normally contact politicians if they want [a] purchaser or investor for a property,” ICAC Commissioner Ruth McColl SC replied.
“Those things are sometimes raised,” Mr Maguire said.
“With politicians acting as an intermediary for a purchase of land in Australia?” Ms McColl replied.