Australia

Daryl Maguire admits to using his public office for personal profit, as Gladys Berejiklian fights for her job

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been under immense pressure as her former boyfriend Daryl Maguire faces ICAC. Source: AAP

Pressure on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian's leadership ramped up on Wednesday, as her former partner, Daryl Maguire, admitted at ICAC to a string of corruption allegations.

The former partner of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has confessed to using his public office for personal profit including helping with a "cash-for-visa scheme" and secretly directing a networking firm.

Daryl Maguire faced the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Wednesday, two days after Ms Berejiklian stunned her colleagues by revealing her five-year romance with the disgraced former Liberal MP.

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The 61-year-old man first elected to parliament in 1999 admitted on oath using his position as MP, parliamentary secretary and NSW Asia-Pacific parliamentary friendship group chair "with a view to making money" for himself and his associates between 2012 and 2018.

Those six years mark the time from networking firm G8way International's creation until Mr Maguire's humiliating departure from politics after appearing before ICAC over property commissions.

Former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire giving evidence during the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption on 14 October.
Former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire giving evidence during the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption on 14 October.
ICAC

G8way, which Mr Maguire effectively directed, ran several ventures including linking Chinese buyers with Australian businesses such as winemakers, cotton growers and miners.

On a website which Mr Maguire said was "not well developed", the firm boasted that its "influence and experience reaches to high levels of government".

It charged a commission of up to 10 per cent on sales stemming from its introductions.

Mr Maguire admitted using electoral and parliamentary staff, including those in the NSW Parliament library, and taxpayer-funded facilities including his office and printers to help make money for G8way and himself.

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He also played a role in a visa scheme linked to G8way, identifying businesses that could sponsor Chinese nationals.

Visa applicants paid the first three months of their wages and paid their migration agent Maggie Wang commissions of up to $20,000, the inquiry heard.

On more than one occasion, Mr Maguire accepted delivery of thousands of dollars of cash to his parliamentary office to allow him to take his cut.

He told Commissioner Ruth McColl he became suspicious in early 2013 that the visa scheme wasn't legitimate and he had an argument with Ms Wang.

"You cannot put people at risk by breaking the rules," Mr Maguire recalled telling Ms Wang.

Daryl Maguire faced ICAC today.
Daryl Maguire faced ICAC today.
ABC

Scott Robertson, counsel assisting the commissioner, questioned if Mr Maguire was seriously suggesting he understood the scheme to be "a legitimate visa arrangement" given applicants had to pay their own wages.

"It was beneficial to the business. Yes, I did," the former Liberal MP replied.

Mr Robertson, who characterised the operation as a scam, later drew Mr Maguire's attention to an email in May 2013 in which the caterer within Wagga RSL sought a refund on his $1000 application after discovering how it worked.

"When asked by Tim what happens if immigration officials turn up, he was told 'They probably won't but on the off chance they do, just tell him he is on leave/holidays/sick etc'," Mr Maguire's close friend and G8way's official director Phillip Elliott said in the email.

Mr Maguire agreed the email "was making clear ... that the scheme, at least in that point in time, involved lying to immigration officials".

He also admitted he should have updated the premier about his conflicts of interest, as obliged under the NSW ministerial code of conduct.

He is yet to give evidence about his relationship with Ms Berejiklian, which she told the inquiry began in 2015.

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On Monday, the inquiry heard intercepted phone conversations between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire in which she said she didn't need to know details about his business deals.

"I stuffed up in my personal life," she said after the hearing.

"Had I known then what I know now, clearly I would not have made those personal decisions."

On Tuesday Ms Berejiklian said she was "absolutely unaware" of any alleged impropriety by him.

The inquiry resumes on Thursday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is facing a vote of no-confidence.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is facing a vote of no-confidence.
SBS News/Barry O'Farrell/Twitter

NSW premier survives no-confidence vote 

Meanwhile, the NSW premier managed to survive two no-confidence motions in both houses of parliament but the fight for her political career isn't over.

Upper house crossbenchers on Wednesday withdrew support for government legislation unless she steps aside.

The opposition no-confidence motion in the lower house failed along party lines, but in the upper house the chair was forced to cast the deciding negative vote after a tie as crossbenchers made good on a threat to withdraw their vital support for the government.

Leader of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Robert Borsak, insists Ms Berejiklian should step aside pending the outcome of the ICAC inquiry into Mr Maguire and One Nation's Mark Latham agrees.

"We're not prepared to support the government in their legislative agenda while she leads their party and in fact is the premier of NSW," Mr Borsak told ABC TV.

"We haven't asked for her to resign. We've asked for her to step aside so that this whole process with ICAC can finish and they can issue some judgment on what her relationship with Mr Maguire has been all about," he said.

Earlier in the day, a visibly agitated premier mounted an impassioned defence of her integrity when she was confronted with questions from reporters about what she knew about the questionable business dealings of Mr Maguire during their five-year secret relationship.

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"With all due respect, I've answered every question I've been asked the last few days. I've been very open about issues that are very uncomfortable to me," she said.

"Never, ever have I tolerated anybody else doing anything wrong. And if I ever saw it or witnessed it or knew about it, of course I would have taken action."

Ms Berejiklian's relationship with Mr Maguire has, by association, tarnished her previously unsullied reputation.

NSW Opposition Leader Jodi Mckay speaks during Question Time in the Legislative Assembly at New South Wales Parliament House in Sydney, Tuesday, October 13, 2020. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts) NO ARCHIVING
NSW Opposition Leader Jodi Mckay speaks during Question Time on 13 October.
AAP

In parliament, Opposition Leader Jodi McKay accused the premier of turning a blind eye to corruption.

"This is a premier who failed to act ... and turned a blind eye to wrongdoing," she told the NSW lower house on Wednesday.

"If the premier stays, your government is forever diminished."

The premier's coalition colleagues continued to back her leadership and Prime Minister Scott Morrison doubled down on his support in an effort to secure her job.

"We're in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic and I think NSW has led the way and Gladys has spearheaded that. Right now is when NSW needs Gladys Berejiklian more than ever," he told Sydney radio 2GB.

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