The Independent Commission Against Corruption has heard damning claims that former MP Daryl Maguire ran a cash-for-visas "scam" via his secret involvement in a Wagga company.
Counsel assisting ICAC, Scott Robertson, told the hearing that the Riverina-based employment listed in the applications did not exist and the applicants were part of a "scam" to use "no-show jobs" as a pathway to permanent residency in Australia.
ICAC was also presented with an intercepted phone call in which Mr Maguire discussed meetings with a Samoan government official as part of proposal to build a casino in the Pacific Islands nation.
Wagga businessman Phillip Elliott told the first day of hearings in Sydney on Monday that Mr Maguire was "effectively a director" of G8wayinternational but was kept off the paperwork to avoid declaring his involvement to Parliament.
Mr Elliott told the hearing that Mr Maguire handed him up to $18,000 in cash from "immigration-related services" that were provided by G8way, a company that the "close friends" established in 2012.
The hearing was shown messages concerning an operation to broker meetings between Wagga, Griffith, Leeton and Cootamundra businesses about Chinese migrant workers.
"At least part of what you were seeking with G8way was a pathway for certain Chinese nationals to ultimately get permanent residency within Australia?" Mr Robertson asked Mr Elliott, to which he responded "yes".
"In fact, as you understood it these visa applicants were not going to turn up to work at all?" Mr Robertson asked.
"That's what I worked out," Mr Elliott said.
Mr Robertson went on to ask "you knew this was a scam, correct?"
"I don't know how to respond to that," Mr Elliott said, before agreeing to Mr Robertson's statement that "G8way was participating in a scheme to get visas when there would not be a genuine business relationship at the end of the line".
ICAC was shown messages from G8way's immigration agent instructing businesses to tell immigration officials that the workers were "on leave" if any inspections did take place.
Mr Robertson asked Mr Elliott if he did not tell businesses about the "illegitimate aspects" of the visa applications and about "telling lies to the immigration department".
"I did not tell about what you have described as illegitimate aspects," Mr Elliott said.
Emails and text messages from Mr Maguire showed that he expected to bring in up to $30,000 per successful visa applicant with the help of a specialist immigration agent.
The ICAC hearing concerned the 'Operation Keppel' investigation into allegations that Mr Maguire breached public trust and used his parliamentary office to benefit himself and other entities such as G8way.
"In short, this public inquiry will investigate whether Mr Maguire sought to monetise his position as a Member of Parliament," Mr Robertson told the hearing.
Mr Maguire resigned from the Liberal Party and then as an MP in 2018.
Mr Elliott agreed with Mr Robertson's suggestions that Mr Maguire planned to take up a director's position and receive profits at G8way after he left parliament.
Mr Elliott denied that Mr Maguire would receive any of G8way's profits while still an MP but said he "did not recall specifically, but I would suggest to you the answer is yes" when asked if he ever gave cash to Mr Maguire from G8way.
In his opening address, Mr Robertson said G8way generated income between 2012 and 2018 "including a commission of more than $9000 for the sale ... of wine from a regional wine producer into China" and charging $5000 for an "introductory service" while visiting government officials and businesspeople in China.
"However, despite some success, G8way does not appear to have produced the financial returns that Mr Maguire and Mr Elliott envisaged," Mr Robertson stated.
An intercepted phone call was played to the hearing in which Mr Maguire told Mr Elliott that "Samoa is definitely a go" and it was "really good".
"We need a result. Got to get a bit of cash flow back in the tin," Mr Elliott responded.
Mr Robertson told the hearing that "the call suggests that Mr Maguire and/or G8way may have had a financial interest" in the Chinese-backed casino project.