The ICAC found in March that all four men acted corruptly.
The inquiry, which ran for 88 days, heard evidence councillors Azzi and Hawatt formed a dominant “junta” on Canterbury council that was voraciously pro-development. They had pressured Montague to appoint Stavis, even though he was not the most qualified candidate, so they could influence his decisions in the role.
Maguire’s interest in Sydney’s property development circles emerged when the ICAC heard evidence in July 2018 that he had held multiple meetings with Sydney property developer, Charbel Demian, also known as Charlie, while Maguire was facilitating the interests of Chinese developers.
Demian was one of the property developers whose companies benefited from decisions made by Stavis.
Contact between Demian and Maguire was organised by Hawatt, the inquiry heard.
“Just got a call from an MP friend of mine who is well-connected in China,” Hawatt texted Demian in May 2016.
“He has a mega rich company who are seriously looking to buy 30 DA sites…I told him about your sites including Canterbury Road. I said 160 plus per site.
“He is keen to talk about this and any other site you want to sell. They are keen, ready and cashed up.”
Demian, who told the ICAC the MP referred to was Maguire, went on to have multiple meetings and contacts with Hawatt and Maguire. A photograph of one of the meetings at a CBD cafe was tendered at the ICAC.
The meeting was attended by Hawatt, Maguire, Demian, as well as an unnamed representative of Country Garden, a Chinese-owned development company.
Demian said that he had been led to believe that “there are a number of entities in China that have business conferences with the state government agencies or MPs and obviously they get introduced to other Australian businesses for business transactions”.
He provided a list of potential development sites to Hawatt, who in turn passed them on to Maguire. The list included thousands of potential dwellings along Canterbury Road, and at Parramatta, Camellia and Waitara.
Demian told the inquiry he never had an agency or other agreement with Hawatt. The developer said he did not ever have discussions about paying commissions to either Maguire or Hawatt.
The inquiry was also played a phone call recorded by the ICAC investigators that revealed Maguire had contacted Hawatt on May 9, 2016, soon after both had returned from trips to China.
“Joe and I have a couple of deals before a big developer,” Maguire told Hawatt. “A couple of ones we want to kick on.”
Maguire asked for anything that was DA approved.
“What I want … I just don’t want to f–k around,” he told Hawatt. “Have you got plans? Have you got the whole thing already done?
“My client is mega big, OK. If he’s interested my client is mega big and has got mega money and wants two or three DA approved projects right now. Today.”
The conversation had then turned to the commission that Hawatt might receive, with Maguire saying that “1.5 per cent isn’t enough divided by two if you know what I’m talking about”.
Maguire told the ICAC he had known Hawatt since about 2008, when Hawatt ran as the Liberal candidate for Lakemba. He said he had approached Hawatt about potential property opportunities for friends of his in the Chinese community. In particular, he was seeking opportunities for the Australian branch of the Chinese firm Country Garden. But he said he did not have an interest himself in making money.
Maguire said he did not have his personal interests at heart but that at the “back of his mind” was the idea that, if Country Garden could establish itself in Australia, it might look to develop in Wagga Wagga which was in his electorate.
The ICAC announced a separate public investigation, Operation Keppel, in September to examine whether Maguire misused his position as Wagga Wagga MP for his own financial interest between 2012 and 2018.
The inquiry heard extracts from letters written by Maguire lobbying then-planning minister Anthony Roberts for meetings on behalf of property developers for projects outside his electorate.
One of those developers was his “mate” Joe Alha, who has been pushing for years to have the height controls increased for his properties on Beamish Street in Campsie.
“I’ve assisted a number of developers,” Maguire told the ICAC, adding that he did it “out of friendship” in the case of Alha.
Alha told the ICAC he had never sought to improperly influence anyone in government regarding his projects and said his relationship with Maguire was “prim and proper”.
He described the revelations of the former MP’s broader activities as “deeper and bigger than what I thought it was”. “I just told him about problems with the planning system, I didn’t expect any miracle to happen,” he said.
It was during this same inquiry one year ago that the spotlight turned swiftly to Berejiklian, when she made the bombshell revelation she had been in a “close personal relationship” with Maguire since 2015.
The commission said on Friday it would investigate whether Berejiklian breached the public’s trust or encouraged the occurrence of corrupt conduct during her secret relationship with Maguire when hearings for Operation Keppel resume on October 18.
The ICAC released its report into Canterbury council in March, recommending advice be sought from the Director of Public Prosecutions about prosecuting Maguire, the four former members of the council, and Demian.
“Corrupt planning decisions at the council were a consequence of both underlying integrity issues and poor controls, and a NSW planning system that lacks effective anti-corruption safeguards,” the ICAC said in a statement.
NSW Greens anti-corruption spokesman Jamie Parker said at the time it was unprecedented that “a close personal contact of a sitting Premier is potentially facing jail time for lying to the corruption watchdog”.
“This raises serious questions for the Premier’s future, the integrity of her government and the oversight of planning in NSW,” he said in March.
Berejiklian said in her remarks on Friday: “I want to be clear, in all the decisions I have made as a minister or premier of NSW, my first consideration has always been the well-being and welfare of the people of this state.
“I state categorically I have always acted with the highest level of integrity.
“History will demonstrate I have executed my duties again with the highest level of integrity for the benefit of the people of NSW for who I have had the privilege to serve.”
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