Daryl Maguire, formerly a member of the state parliament of New South Wales in Australia, testified before a corruption inquest on Wednesday that he received envelopes filled with thousands of dollars in cash, right in his parliamentary office, as payment for helping Chinese nationals obtain fraudulent visas.
Reuters on Wednesday summarized the most explosive details from the inquiry:
Maguire and his business associate, Maggie Wang, received up to A$20,000 ($14,000) for each business they recruited to the scheme. He agreed it was a breach of public trust.
Wang had told the inquiry on Tuesday that she had shared profits from the scheme with Maguire, and also admitted lying to investigators.
Maguire accepted another allegation heard by the inquiry on Tuesday: that he had tried to make money from his position as chairman of the parliament’s Asia Pacific Friendship Group by promoting a series of Chinese business deals in the Pacific islands.
Maguire also reportedly said a company he was involved with had openly proclaimed itself to have access to the “highest levels of government” in both Australia and China.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Wang passed along the cash payments. Wang is an investment consultant who ran the immigration service for G8WayInternational, the company Maguire was reportedly a silent partner in. Wang allegedly also handled the payment of kickbacks to Australian employers who pretended to employ the Chinese nationals who entered Australia using the phony visas. One of the businessmen said he arrived at his office one morning to find money stuffed in the pockets of “every spare pocket” in the place.
Maguire, who represented the colorfully-named district of Wagga Wagga in New South Wales for two decades, reluctantly resigned in August 2018 after admitting to Australia’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that he sought compensation for helping a Chinese property developer work out a land deal.
Maguire was very forthcoming about his corrupt activities during this week’s testimony before the ICAC. Australia’s ABC News noted it took him less than half an hour to admit he was collecting envelopes full of cash in his parliamentary office for assisting with visa fraud, and he monetized his office by using his “parliamentary staff, resources, mailing system, and even the parliamentary library” on behalf of G8wayInternational.
As ABC put it, Maguire told the commission “he did not report his involvement in a ‘cash-for-visa scam’ because he was making money.” Quite a bit of it, in fact: the ICAC was told the “success fee” for the visa scam was $20,000 per applicant, and Maguire’s cut was 75 percent. He did not officially declare the huge amounts of cash he was paid for his efforts.
The scheme supposedly involved securing visas for vitally-needed Chinese guest workers, but apparently most of them never actually showed up for work at their nominal jobs. They did not get in much trouble for their truancy because they were paying their own wages.
Maguire also admitted he used his position as chair of the New South Wales Parliamentary Asia Pacific Friendship Group to further his own overseas business interests between 2012 and 2018, helping to set up business meetings across the Pacific for a Chinese businessman named Ho Yuen Li and an operation called the Shenzhen Asia Pacific Commercial Development Association Group.
Australia’s 9News described an especially intriguing “kerfuffle,” as Maguire called it, over an invoice sent by G8wayInternational to a delegation of Chinese officials:
In November 2012, Mr Maguire arranged for a Chinese delegation to meet with Mr O’Farrell at the same time a $400 million trade centre was proposed to be built around Wagga Wagga.
The Chinese delegation was then sent an invoice by Mr Maguire’s parliamentary staffer on a G8wayinternational letterhead.
The inquiry heard the Chinese delegation was also sent an invoice related to a fee for an introductory service, but Mr Maguire insisted that instead related to a lunch.
The Maguire story became an even bigger scandal on Monday when the premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, admitted she was in a “close personal relationship” with the married Maguire during some of the period under scrutiny by the ICAC. Berejiklian said she believed Maguire had separated from his now-divorced wife Maureen when they began seeing each other in 2015. She said they remained close until August 2020, long after he resigned under allegations of corruption.
Berejiklian refused calls from the opposition Labor party to resign after revealing her relationship with Maguire and insisted she was not involved in any of the activities under investigation.
The UK Guardian noted that Monday’s hearings included evidence that Maguire unsuccessfully tried to set up a meeting between a Berejiklian and his close friend, a property developer named Joseph Alha.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported the ICAC reviewed phone taps from 2017 and 2018 that captured Maguire discussing some of his business dealings with Berejiklian; she said she did not realize the deals he told her about were ethically dubious and claimed she did not pay much attention to his business talk because his schemes were “always falling through.”
The ICAC reportedly does not consider Berejiiklian a target of the investigation, but it had some questions for Alha, who admitted before the commission last week that he deleted chat conversations with Maguire from his cell phone before the ICAC seized it. Alha said he did this because Maguire said some uncomplimentary things about the corruption inquiry in their “personal” correspondence. Alha allegedly helped Maguire manipulate some planning commissions that stood in the way of their mutual business interests.