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Robertson continues to press Maguire on whether he was hoping to make money personally as a result of his involvement in the Shenzen business group.
We’re played a phone intercept (the first of the day!) between Maguire and his close friend and partner at G8Way International, Phillip Elliott. We hear them discussing a trip to Samoa with a Shenzen businessman who was interested in setting up a casino in Samoa.
Maguire tells Elliott he helped set up a meeting between the Chinese businessman and the Samoan consulate.
He tells Elliott on the call:
They were happy with the meeting so in February I’m going to the Solomon Islands and PNG, I’m going to visit them in the next round and then March is … 10 days in Samoa and they’re bringin a dozen business people.
So we’re just teeing up some meetings with the [Samoan] prime minister and other ppl so Samoa is definitely a go”.
Elliott then says:
Got to get a bit of cash flow back in the tin.
Before Maguire says:
They’re the kinds of things you should talk about over a barbecue fire.
Maguire is being grilled about a number of trips he took as an MP to the South Pacific with members of the Shenzen business organisation.
Robertson is putting to Maguire that he used his “consular ties” as the chair of the parliamentary friendship group to enable the organisation to invest in the South Pacific.
Maguire insists that it wasn’t “initially”. Robertson though continues to press him on it. It was, he says, “at least an aspect” of what Maguire was able to offer.
You were using the diplomatic and consular weight of your office or at least the contacts as chair of the parliamentary friendship group to assist commerce in relation to the Shenzen business people?
Robertson puts it to Maguire that at least one of his motives was to personally make money. Maguire says it “wasn’t the primary motive but it was a possibility, yes”.
Robertson puts it to Maguire that was “quite wrong to do”.
We’re now hearing about Maguire’s role as the honorary chair of an organisation called the Shenzhen Asia Pacific Commercial Development Association.
First, Maguire admits he used his role as the chair of the Parliamentary Asia Pacific Friendship Group to help that organisation commercially, a breach of its rules.
In other words, he knew he was breaching parliamentary rules.
He then admits at least one of the reasons he was helping the Shenzen organisation “was a view to obtaining profits”.
And we’re back from lunch.
Counsel assisting the commissioner Scott Robertson is resuming from the dispatch end, with former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire to remain on strike for the foreseeable future.
I probably shouldn’t extend this joke to how many (or few) runs he scored this morning, but just know that I want to.
What we’ve learned so far.
While we have a moment, let’s recap on what we’ve heard during a whirlwind morning of evidence. We’re still only scratching the surface of Daryl Maguire’s evidence, though. There’s a long way to go.
- The former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire has admitted he knew that a cash-for-visa scheme he helped run while still in parliament involved lying to immigration officials. The scheme involved a company which he “effectively” controlled receiving kickbacks for helping businesses employ Chinese nationals who never actually worked for the companies.
- Maguire initially said he had believed the scheme was legitimate. When he was shown evidence proving he knew otherwise, he said he told his business associate, Maggie Wang, “you cannot put people at risk by breaking the rules”. But he eventually conceded he knew it was “not a legitimate immigration scheme”.
- The same company, G8Way International, sent invoices to a Chinese company which included a fee for “an introductory service” after a function which included a meet-and-greet with the then premier, Barry O’Farrell. Maguire insisted he did not know why the invoice was sent, saying it was handled by his staff.
- The former MP admitted that he sought to “monetise” his parliamentary office and, as the counsel assisting Icac Scott Robertson put it, “use your status” as an MP “with a view to making money”.
- Maguire also admitted to receiving thousands of dollars in cash to his parliamentary office from Wang in relation to the cash-for-visa scheme. He couldn’t recall how many times the payments occurred.
- During a press conference the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said her “tolerance for answering questions which frankly are offensive” was waning. Berejiklian said Maguire had “fooled a lot of people” in the Liberal party.
Maguire admits he knew cash-for-visa scheme involved lying to immigration officials.
Wow. After some back-and-forth, Maguire has admitted to the Icac that he knew the visa scheme involved lying to immigration officials, but did it anyway to advance his own financial interests.
At first, Maguire says he was “misled” by the scheme, but another email from Wang makes clear that he knew so-called employees would not necessarily work for the companies they were tied to.
And you knew that at the time you were [introducing] at least some of the business [to the scheme], do you agree?
You weren’t misled by this email, in fact you were correctly led.
The email is making clear to you that the scheme at this time involved lying to immigration officials.
You knew it was not a legitimate immigration scheme.
Not just on reflection, you knew at the time you were referring at least some of these businesses, do you agree?
And you decided to proceed anyway because there was potential money for you in the event you continued to offer businesses into this immigration scheme?
Do you agree that was something was quite wrong for you to do, noting at least many of these businesses were constituents of yours?
It was a breach of the public trust placed in you to proceed with this immigration scheme?
But you did it in your own personal financial interests, do you agree?
After Maguire argues that he believed the visa scheme was legitimate, he’s shown correspondence between he and Maggie Wang from 2013 in which she explicitly states some workers would not turn up to work for the businesses that were supposed to be employing them.
Counsel assisting Scott Robertson reads out a text from Wang saying the employer “has no obligation to hire the person at all”.
Ms Wang [appears] to be making clear to you [that] if you put these businesses forward and they agree to sponsor a particular visa applicant they actually would have no obligation to hire the person at all, is that right?
That’s what she’s saying, yes.
Robertson says to Maguire that as of 4 February 2013 he was “on notice” that “what Ms Wang was proposing to you and what Ms Wang was involved in was what I’ve called a cash for visa scheme”.
I would agree but with the precursor that I took steps to correct that.
Maguire insists he remembers having a “heated conversation about the workers having to turn up”.
But he concedes when Robertson puts to him that he knew there was a “high likelihood the rules would be broken”.
Upper house test for Berejiklian
Looks like the no-confidence motion against NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian in the upper house will go down later this afternoon, on the casting vote of the president.
Labor has been refused a pair for Shaoquett Moselmane, who is on leave while under investigation for his ties to China. The independent, Justin Field, two Animal Justice party Mps and Fred Nile look set to vote with the government.
Asked whether she could govern without the confidence of the Upper House, Berejiklian said: “Lets just see what happens.”
The vote is not till after 4pm, so the landscape could change. A vote of no confidence in the upper house would not affect the government’s ability to govern, but signals a bumpier than usual road with the minor parties in coming weeks.
Back to Icac, where Maguire has been arguing that he believed the cash for visa scheme he began with Maggie Wang was legitimate.
He says he became concerned that the workers employed with the scheme were not actually acting as employees, and told Wang: “You cannot put people at risk by breaking the rules.”
We know though that the Chinese nationals involved in the scheme were effectively paying their own wages while employed by a business, as well as paying a “training” fee and another fee to G8Way.
Robertson isn’t buying it:
This was a cash-for-visas scheme, wasn’t it?
It appears that way, yes.
Robertson tells Maguire that he was “put on notice of at least the possibility that this was a scam” but did not do anything about it because he was making money.