The inquiry has also called Liberal Oatley MP Mark Coure to give evidence next week, as well as Jock Sowter, director of strategy for Deputy Premier John Barilaro.
Real estate operator Angus McLaren on Thursday told the commission the “pretty good [visa] deal” was pitched to him in 2014 by investment consultant Maggie Wang, an associate of Mr Maguire.
He said he only realised he was involved in a scam when employees didn’t show and he started receiving envelopes full of cash.
“I didn’t suddenly have an epiphany and say, this was a scam… at that stage I thought we had already crossed the Rubicon and what do you do?,” he said.
Mr McLaren said he agreed to participate in the immigration scheme on the urging of Mr Maguire in 2014, trusting its legitimacy because of his position in office.
“I thought we lacked the capacity in our business to service Chinese people. [Daryl] said, you need to talk to Maggie, she might be able to help,” Mr McLaren said.
Under the scheme he would employ the applicant “at no net cost” for three months, to aid them in accessing a rural regional business visa. All wages and superannuation for the employee would be covered by Ms Wang and reimbursed in envelopes of cash, along with the $30,000 “training fee.”
One of two such Chinese nationals was Stephen Xu, who was employed as a general manager at Mr McLaren’s Miller and James Real Estate agency. Mr McLaren acknowledged he maintained infrequent email communication with Mr Xu and only met him once in Australia and once in China.
Mr McLaren said at the time he showed the employment contract, which he signed, to his lawyer who advised him not to touch it.
“Solicitors are generally very conservative… I’ve always been a bit of a risk taker,” he said, adding that, in hindsight, he believed his solicitor was probably right.
He later admitted to attempting to create a paper trail in an effort to “cover my butt”.
It followed dramatic scenes at the commission on Wednesday, when a government staffer was escorted to her Parliament House office to collect the computer hard drive of Mr Maguire after revealing in evidence that she had been secretly storing it.
The commission also heard evidence from Shaun Duffy, managing director of Great Southern Electrical, who also agreed to employ Chinese nationals under the scheme.
He gave evidence that in 2012 he agreed to employ a recent university graduate, who was seeking a work visa in Australia. Mr Duffy said while “there was no written agreement” he employed the graduate as a financial investment advisor, for as long as it took for her to obtain a visa.
Asked by counsel assisting, Alex Brown, if that was the role the woman performed, he said, “no, probably not.”
He told the commission he was introduced to Ms Wang by Mr Maguire at a NSW Parliament House event in 2012.
Mr Duffy recalled Ms Wang delivering him $48,000 in cash after he signed a training contract for a visa applicant, who would never come into his employ.
“It was a Saturday morning … at my office. [The cash] was in every pocket… every spare pocket she had was stuffed with cash,” he said.
He said he felt uncomfortable accepting the cash, but was told Ms Wang could not take the money back because “its got nowhere to go.”
Mr Duffy stored the cash in his personal safe and later, the bank.
Ms Wang has been called as a witness to give evidence at the inquiry next week.
The inquiry continues.
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Lucy Cormack is a state political reporter with The
Sydney Morning Herald.