Disgraced former NSW Liberal MP Daryl Maguire sought to charge Chinese dignitaries thousands of dollars for access to state government officials including the then-premier Barry O’Farrell, a corruption inquiry has heard.
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into the cash-for-influence scandal that forced Mr Maguire’s resignation from parliament began on Monday, and is expected to run for four weeks.
It will investigate whether Mr Maguire breached public trust by using his public office and parliamentary resources to improperly gain a benefit for himself or for G8way International – a company he “effectively controlled”.
It will also investigate whether Mr Maguire’s activities amount to the criminal offence of misconduct in public office.
In his opening address, counsel assisting the commission Scott Robertson said it appeared Mr Maguire used G8Way International as a “vehicle” for him to pursue a number of commercial opportunities between 2012 and 2018, while formally distancing himself from its ownership and managerial structure.
“Although Mr Maguire was not formally appointed as a director of G8teway International Proprietary, Mr Maguire effectively controlled that company in such a way as to be a de-facto director,” Mr Robertson said.
The commercial opportunities were largely pursued either in China, Australia or the South Pacific, and most commonly involved Chinese associates, he said.
Neither Mr Maguire’s role in G8way International nor any income derived from it was ever declared in his parliamentary returns between 2012 and 2018.
The company’s website boasted that its “influence and experience reaches the high levels of government”.
Drafted invoices presented to the inquiry purported to show G8way International would charge up to $5500 for “introductory services” – which Mr Robertson alleges entailed access to NSW government officials.
He revealed one alleged example which was connected to a visit by delegates from China’s Liaoning province to the NSW parliament.
“Gateway International also appears to have charged a fee for, amongst other things, providing an introductory service … during the course of which then premier Barry O’Farrell had a courtesy call with the party secretary of Lianing province,” Mr Robertson said.
Mr Maguire’s close friend Phillip Elliott, who appeared at the inquiry on Monday, was the official director of the company.
Mr Elliott told the inquiry that he had no part in drafting the invoices, and he presumed they had been done at Mr Maguire’s request.
He also admitted Mr Maguire’s parliamentary staff were made available to him for G8way International work. Some of them even had their own company email addresses.
Mr Robertson earlier told the inquiry Mr Maguire had also facilitated a “cash-for-visas” scheme and had accepted an envelope full of cash after lobbying on behalf of Chinese developers while on a trip to Samoa.
In recorded phone calls played to the inquiry, Mr Maguire admits his involvement in “door opening” and “lobby work” for developers while he was a member of parliament.
“If (Chinese developer) Country Garden decide that they want a strategic policy engagement director, well I’m it and they can pay my company … but some of the work has to be done at arm’s length,” Mr Maguire said in one of the calls.
The former NSW member for Wagga Wagga sat in parliament for 19 years before his resignation in 2018, after a separate ICAC inquiry heard he sought payment to help broker deals for some property developers.
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