The premier of Australia’s most populous state yesterday told a corruption inquiry that she had been in a secret “close personal relationship” with a politician under investigation for monetizing his position through business dealings with China.
New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed the relationship to the NSW Independent Commission into Corruption, prompting calls from the opposition Australian Labor Party for her resignation.
Addressing reporters after the hearing, Berejiklian said that she had “made a mistake in my personal life” with a relationship she did not even disclose to her family or closest friends, but would continue to serve as premier because she had “not done anything wrong.”
“People may have tried to influence me ... but they failed,” she said.
Berejiklian had earlier told the commission that she was “beyond shocked, disgusted” by evidence put before the inquiry that the former lawmaker Daryl Maguire was allegedly involved in a “cash for visas scheme” for Chinese involving falsified employment.
Maguire could not be reached for comment and is to appear before the inquiry later this week.
Maguire was forced to resign from the NSW parliament, and his position as chairman of the NSW Parliament Asia Pacific Friendship Group, after a 2018 investigation heard that he had sought to act for Chinese property developers in land deals.
Berejiklian said that she had been in a relationship with Maguire since 2015, and had once called him her “numero uno,” but demanded Maguire’s resignation after the 2018 revelations.
She said that she ceased contact with him in September after being privately interviewed by corruption investigators.
The commission is investigating Maguire’s pursuit of business deals between 2012 and 2018, which commonly involved an “association with China.”
Telephone intercepts played to the inquiry featured Maguire discussing his financial problems, including debts of A$1.5 million (US$1.1 million), with Berejiklian, as well as the potential for him to gain financially from an airport land deal.
Maguire wanted to resolve his debts before resigning from politics ahead of last year’s election, the inquiry heard.
If Maguire left politics, Berejiklian would have been willing to make their relationship public, she said.
She told the inquiry that she was “an independent woman with my own finances,” adding that she would “never turn a blind eye” to inappropriate behavior.
“I am very clear of my public responsibilities, and the distinction between my private life and public responsibilities,” she said.
The inquiry was played a September 2017 telephone intercept where Maguire talked about concluding a land deal and Berejiklian responded: “I don’t need to know about that bit.”
Berejiklian said that Maguire was “a big talker” and she would often dismiss his talk of deals as fanciful.
Maguire said in one telephone intercept that he had met Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), an encounter which Berejiklian explained to the inquiry was when he was among a group of 15 NSW politicians who lined up to greet the president on his visit to Sydney in 2014.
Maguire in 2017 wrote to the board of Chinese food producers Bright Food to complain a delay in a deal with an Australian firm was “causing loss of face for my political leaders.”
Berejiklian said that she had no knowledge of the letter and it was “highly inappropriate.”
Maguire had sought to join a NSW trade delegation to China in 2017 to lobby for the project, but had been rebuffed by Berejiklian’s office.
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