Home Affairs to help investigate visa scheme

The Maguire-linked cash-for-visa scheme will be investigated with the help of the Department of Home Affairs.

The federal Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that it will be assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in its investigation into the Daryl Maguire linked cash-for-visa “scam.”

Home Affairs department secretary Michael Pezzullo told Senate Estimates on Monday that as well as assisting ICAC, the agency would “take action” under federal law if necessary.

“I am aware of the specific allegations, both in terms of the proceedings that are currently before ICAC but also in terms of the assistance that the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force is providing,” Mr Pezzullo said.

“We are in discussions with ICAC to assist them.”

The ICAC public hearings into former Wagga MP Mr Maguire heard that at least six Riverina businesses were involved in a cash-for-visa “scam” in which they employed Chinese nationals who allegedly never turned up for work, in return for tens of thousands of dollars in cash.

The manager of Wagga-based company Great Southern Electrical, Shaun Duffy, told ICAC that he accepted $50,000 to provide training contracts to visa applicants through the scheme.

Another businessman caught up in the scheme was Temora’s Angus McLaren, who admitted that he was paid $75,000 in cash to employ three Chinese nationals who didn’t complete any work, with some not even turning up.

When Mr Maguire appeared before the Commission, he admitted that he took a number of payments of up to $20,000 for his role in the scheme.

Mr Pezzullo said on Monday that Home Affairs is trying to determine how many visas were involved in the scheme.

The following day, Home Affairs also told Senate Estimates that Mr Maguire may have made representations to federal politicians in relation to the visa scheme.

During parliament questioning on Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to rule out being approached by Mr Maguire about the visa scheme after being asked whether Mr Maguire made any representations to himself or the government.

“It has been my long-established practice, both when I was previously a minister and, certainly, as Prime Minister—as Prime Minister you receive representations from many people in the community, including from those opposite, on many matters, including on those which the member has referred to, and it is my normal practice—for those matters, through my office, to be referred to the relevant department or my department for an appropriate response. That is the practice I have always followed,” Mr Morrison said.

The visa “scam” dates back to 2013, around the time that Mr Morrison was the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (between September 2013 and December 2014).

The Prime Minister’s office was contacted for a response to this issue.