Australian state premier had secret relationship with China-linked politician
By Kirsty Needham
SYDNEY (Reuters) - The prime minister of Australia's most populous state told a corruption investigation Monday that she had a secret "close personal relationship" with a politician who was being investigated for monetizing his position through doing business with China.
New South Wales (NSW) Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian exposed the relationship with the NSW Independent Commission on Corruption (ICAC) and called on the opposition Labor Party to resign.
Berejiklian turned to the media after the hearing and said she had "made a mistake in my personal life" with a relationship that she had not even disclosed to her family or closest friends, but would continue to serve as prime minister because she "has nothing." got it wrong ". .
"People may have tried to influence me ... but they failed," she said.
Berejiklian had previously told ICAC that she was "more than shocked, disgusted" by evidence presented prior to the investigation that former Wagga Wagga MP, Daryl Maguire, was allegedly involved in a "cash-for-visa system" employment for fake Chinese nationals was involved.
Maguire could not be reached for comment and will appear later in the week before the request.
Maguire was forced to resign from NSW Parliament and resigned his position as chairman of the NSW Parliament's Asia Parliament Friendship Group after a 2018 investigation found that he tried to trade in real estate deals for Chinese real estate developers.
Berejiklian said she had been in a relationship with Maguire since 2015 and once called him "numero uno" but called for Maguire to resign after the 2018 ICAC revelations.
She said she stopped contact with him in September 2020 after being interviewed privately by corruption investigators.
A new ICAC investigation examines Maguire's pursuit of deals between 2012 and 2018 that typically involved an "association with China".
ICAC phone tapes conducted during the investigation revealed Maguire was discussing his financial problems, including $ 1.5 million in debt, with Berejiklian and the potential for him to benefit financially from an airport-land deal.
Maguire wanted to pay off his debts before retiring from politics in the 2019 elections, the investigation said.
If Maguire had left politics, Berejiklian would have been willing to make their relationship public, she recalled.
She told the investigation that she was "an independent woman with my own finances" and added that she would "never turn a blind eye" to inappropriate behavior.
"I am very clear about my public responsibility and the distinction between my private life and public responsibility."
The request was intercepted by phone in September 2017, where Maguire is talking about closing a real estate deal, and Berejiklian replies, "I don't need to know anything about it."
Berejiklian said Maguire was "a great speaker" and she would often dismiss his talk of deals as fanciful.
Maguire boasted on a phone section that he had met Chinese President Xi Jinping. One encounter, Berejiklian told the investigation, was among a group of 15 NSW politicians who lined up to greet Xi when he visited Sydney in 2014.
In 2017, Maguire wrote to the board of China's largest food producer, Bright Foods, complaining about a delay in a deal with an Australian agribusiness. UWE has "caused my political leaders a loss of face".
Berejiklian said she was unaware of the letter and that it was "most inappropriately".
Maguire had attempted to join an NSW government trade delegation to China in 2017 to campaign for the project, but was turned away by Berejiklian's office, saying the delay in meetings would be increased.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham)
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