The ‘cash-for-visas’ scam linked to former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire could harm public trust in the management of the government’s visa and immigration program, according to Department of Home Affairs boss Mike Pezzullo.
A senate committee hearing on Monday heard that Home Affairs would work “in parallel” with the New South Wales corruption watchdog, which has been investigating the scandal.
Pezzullo also confirmed that Maguire may have made representations to Home Affairs or federal MPs, and has “asked for further particulars to be established in that regard”.
“As is the case with federal and state and territory members, occasionally representations are made either directly to the department either by way of direct reference to me, or to officers within the department or by way of federal members of Parliament,” he said.
While the department hasn’t launched a formal internal probe in relation to Maguire, it has been looking into the matters that are currently before the Independent Commission Against Corruption, and has been assisting ICAC with its work.
“I am sure we will get to the point of working out how many visas in relation to how many physical persons over what time period and if that is material to ICAC deliberations, but more particularly, in relation to federal laws, I can assure you we will be taking action independently and in any event, in a way that does not cut across or impinge ICAC proceedings,” he said.
He noted that “not Mr Maguire himself, but certain individuals associated with the matter have come to attention previously”.
The matter could harm public trust in government, the inquiry heard.
“A so-called cash for visa scheme in any circumstances, it undermines the public’s trust in the management of the visa and immigration program more generally does reside in a bargain that says people can come here for the purpose for which they are allowed to enter, that their activities will conform and be in compliance with the conditions of their visa,” Pezzullo said.
ICAC has been investigating allegations that Maguire misused his position as an MP for his own financial gain.
During questioning last week, Maguire admitted he and a former business associate had run the program that allowed Chinese nationals to pay for false employment to obtain visas.
Maguire confirmed that he had received “thousands of dollars in cash” on multiple occasions from the business associate, and had known the scheme involved lying to immigration officials.
“You decided to proceed anyway because there was potential money for you in the event you continued to refer businesses into this immigration scheme. Do you agree?” Counsel assisting ICAC Scott Robertson asked.
“Yes,” Maguire replied.