Temora businessman Angus McLaren has told a corruption hearing that he participated in a Chinese worker visa "scam" with a immigration agent linked to former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.
Mr McLaren admitted to the Independent Commission Against Corruption that he was paid $75,000 in cash to employ three Chinese nationals, including one who never left Sydney and another who showed up only once to his Temora business.
During witness testimony given yesterday, Mr McLaren claimed that he was given $30,000 by Maggie Wang as a fee for every Chinese national who completed a three-month work period, with $15,000 paid upfront.
ICAC has previously heard testimony that Ms Wang was a "specialist immigration agent" who worked with G8wayinternational and Phillip Elliott, who claimed Mr Maguire was "effectively a director" with him in the business.
Mr McLaren claimed that Ms Wang also reimbursed the cost of the workers' salary and superannuation, all paid via envelopes of cash provided by her during meetings in Sydney.
Mr McLaren denied he authorised Ms Wang to provide misleading information to the Immigration Department. The highest-paid worker under the scheme was Stephen Xu, who was paid $60,000 for three months as Mr McLaren's "deputy general manager" at Miller and James Real Estate.
"I picked [Mr Xu] up in Sydney and we came out to Temora and we discussed potential investments before he flew back to Sydney," Mr McLaren said.
"He never actually worked out at Temora ... he did stuff-all, really. It was a disappointment."
Mr McLaren claimed that Ms Wang was introduced to him by Mr Maguire and he later phoned the then-Wagga MP to complain about being paid in cash. "Daryl said to me 'I don't want to know about it' and changed the subject," Mr McLaren said.
Mr McLaren repeatedly stated that he entered into the worker scheme without knowing it was "illegitimate".
Counsel assisting ICAC Scott Robertson asked Mr McLaren why he emailed Ms Wang to say that a worker was "doing a great job" if he "never went to work for you".
"I was trying to cover my butt. I knew at that stage it was a scam so I thought it was a good idea to write something down," he said.
Mr McLaren said it was "possible" he approved a series of "made up" business documents concerning the employment of Chinese workers.
"It's a scam isn't it? So anything goes," he said.
Mr McLaren admitted he did not retain some documents because they might have been "suspect".
"I didn't have an epiphany one day that 'this is a scam'. It was gradual. When the employee didn't turn up, I realised this was a scam. But by then we had crossed the Rubicon. What do you do?" he said.