© Provided by The GuardianPhotograph: AAP
The Department of Home Affairs is investigating the alleged cash-for-visa scheme linked to former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, as the head of the department revealed he has reason to believe the former politician may have approached the federal government to make representations about visa issues.
The secretary of home affairs, Michael Pezzullo, has confirmed that his department is investigating the scheme, which was a key element of the Independent Commission Against Corruption's investigation into allegations Maguire misused his position as an MP for his own financial gain.
During a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, Pezzullo said the department was "not waiting" for Icac to conclude its investigations, but was instead working with the anti-corruption watchdog.
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He did not rule out the possibility of taking criminal action action as a result of its investigations, and told the hearing that "certain individuals" linked to the scheme "have come to [our] attention previously".
"I am aware of the specific allegations, both in terms of the proceedings that are currently on foot before Icac, but also in terms of the assistance that the Department of Home Affairs and Australian Border Force is providing to the Independent Commission Against Corruption," Pezzullo said on Monday. © Photograph: AAPFormer Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney last Friday. The Department of Home Affairs is investigating an alleged cash-for-visas scheme linked to Maguire.
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"We are in discussions with Icac to assist them, it's of course a state body, but our practice is wherever possible if we can assist crime commissions or integrity commissions then we will.
"If it's pertinent to the enforcement of federal laws, we will be taking action independently and in any event."
Pezzullo also stated under questioning from Labor senator Kristina Keneally that he believed that Maguire had made representations to the federal department over visa issues but was making further enquiries to confirm this.
"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.
Pressed by Keneally on whether that meant Maguire had made representations, he said: "I believe that to be the case and I've asked for further particulars to be established in that regard."
Maguire, who had for years maintained a secret relationship with the New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian, admitted to Icac last week that he received thousands of dollars in payments over what has been labelled a cash-for-visa scheme he allegedly helped to run as an MP.
The scheme allowed Australian employers to earn a subsidy for falsely employing Chinese nationals full-time so they could obtain a visa, while the Icac heard a company Maguire "effectively" controlled received payments.
Maguire admitted in his evidence to Icac that he knew the scheme involved lying to immigration officials.