Former Liberal Wagga MP Daryl Maguire has admitted to suggestions at a corruption hearing that he committed a "breach of public trust" by involving his own constituents in a cash-for-visas "scam".
Mr Maguire told the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Wednesday that he was told by a Riverina business and by his own associates that Chinese visa applicants were not turning up to contracted work but he continued to collect thousands of dollars in cash from the scam.
"You realised from an early point in time that there was a very serious risk that this was a scam, is that right?" Counsel assisting ICAC Scott Robertson asked.
"Yes," Mr Maguire said.
It was one of Mr Maguire's several admissions to serious allegations around the misuse of public office during the course of his first day giving evidence at ICAC, including that he sought to "monetise" his parliamentary role for personal gain.
Question: You realised from an early point in time that there was a very serious risk that this was a scam, is that right? Answer: Yes.Counsel Assisting ICAC Scott Robertson asks Daryl Maguire about a visa scheme with Riverina businesses
Mr Maguire also said he "could" have been involved in selling access to "the highest levels of government" to members of a Chinese business group looking to invest in projects across the Pacific Islands.
Mr Maguire was emphatic in his denials of collecting a fee for securing a meeting between then-NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell and a Chinese delegation who wanted to build a $400 million Wuai Trade Centre in Wagga.
Mr Maguire initially told ICAC that his immigration consultant, Maggie Wang, had "promised" him in February 2013 that she would fix the scheme after Creative Business Furniture owner Peter Wood complained about his worker not turning up.
"I did have a heated discussion with Ms Wang about breaking the rules and people had to turn up and honour the agreement and not put people at risk," Mr Maguire said.
Mr Robertson then presented emails from Phillip Elliott, a Wagga RSL director and the frontman for Mr Maguire's secretly-held company G8wayinternational, about a subsequent failed meeting to recruit the RSL Club's caterer into the visa scheme.
Mr Robertson said former Wagga RSL Club caterer Tim Howe "didn't want to get involved because they thought it was a scam".
Mr Elliott emailed Mr Maguire in May 2013 to state that "Tim was out for sure" and wanted to return an initial fee of $1000.
"The RSL is out in whole. I think the major hurdle in the end was the explanation by Maggie [Wang] and [immigration agent] Monica [Hao] of how it works. They really need to be careful," Mr Elliott emailed to Mr Maguire.
"When asked by Tim what happens when immigration officials turn up, he was told they probably won't but on the off chance they do, tell him he is on leave/holidays/sick etc.
"The other thing was the candidate: he was excellent but telling fibs."
Mr Robertson asked Mr Maguire "You must have known, including up until May 2013, that is was a scam, agree? An essential element of this scheme ... was potentially lying to immigration officials?"
"Yes, I agree," Mr Maguire said, before trying to argue he was "misled". He then admitted he was "correctly" informed about the visa scheme when questioned about the emails.
Mr Maguire agreed with Mr Robertson that he "decided to proceed anyway" with recruiting Riverina business owners "knowing there was money to be made" via multiple deliveries of thousands of dollars in cash from Ms Wang and this was "quite wrong".
"You must agree that it was a breach of public trust placed in you to proceed with this immigration scheme?" Mr Robertson asked. "Yes," Mr Maguire responded and agreed he targeted his own constituents for "personal financial interests".
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ICAC was presented with a "fee structure" from G8wayinternational, a Wagga company that Mr Maguire admitted he secretly ran to gain personal profits from import and export deals out of China. The fee structure included potential commissions from deals worth up to and above $1 billion in US Dollars.
Mr Maguire said "not many deals were successful" and the biggest import commission the company received was a share in $7250 for helping import cutlery and crockery for Wagga RSL.
Mr Maguire agreed that he had interest in gaining commissions from helping set up investments in steel, wine, cotton, milk powder, a pilot school, coal and gold mines, a showroom in Shenzhen, an automatic car wash, a casino in Samoa and an oil tech startup. "A lot of them didn't come off," Mr Maguire said.
Mr Maguire will return to give evidence on Thursday to the ICAC inquiry into allegations he used his public office for personal gain between 2012 and 2018.