Riverina company UWE Hay paid cheque and China costs to former Wagga MP, ICAC hears

Then-Wagga MP Daryl Maguire (far left) and then-NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell (far right) open a UWE Hay at Wumbulgal, 25kms west of Leeton, in 2015. Photo: The Irrigator
Then-Wagga MP Daryl Maguire (far left) and then-NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell (far right) open a UWE Hay at Wumbulgal, 25kms west of Leeton, in 2015. Photo: The Irrigator

A corruption inquiry has heard claims that former Wagga MP Maguire was given a $1400 cheque and had all-expenses paid for a trip to China on behalf of a Riverina export business.

United World Enterprises managing director Jimmy Liu told the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) yesterday that Mr Maguire helped him try to find an alternate investor when a Chinese company pulled out of a Leeton and Griffith joint venture.

Mr Liu also told the hearing he had an informal talk with Mr Maguire about working with him as an "advisor" after he retired from Parliament.

Mr Liu initially denied having paid Mr Maguire for his assistance as "we are friends" but was then shown a UWE cheque for $1400 that was paid to "D. Maguire" in November 2014.

The cheque, signed by Mr Liu, was dated just before a conference in China that UWE that had already paid upfront for Mr Maguire's airfares, accommodation, food and airport transfers.

Mr Liu said he owned 49 per cent of UWE Hay, while Chinese global investment company Bright Food previously owned 51 per cent, and the operation was set up to buy oaten hay from a 200-kilometre radius around Leeton and export it to China, Japan and Korea.

ICAC is investigating allegations that Mr Maguire used his public office for personal gain between 2012 and 2018.

Mr Liu said Mr Maguire introduced him to beef, red wine and barley suppliers and a canola oil factory but the prices were "too high" for export to China.

Mr Liu denied he would have paid a fee to Mr Maguire if the deals were successful.

UWE managing director Jimmy Liu (right) with employees and suppliers at the company's hay packing operation outside Leeton in 2015. Picture: Farm Online

UWE managing director Jimmy Liu (right) with employees and suppliers at the company's hay packing operation outside Leeton in 2015. Picture: Farm Online

Counsel assisting ICAC Scott Robertson pointed out that Bright Food pulled out of the Leeton joint venture in 2016.

Mr Liu said his company was "suffering" because the next stage of the Leeton project had "already started but the money was not coming".

ICAC was played an intercepted phone call in which Mr Liu said he was concerned that "very straightforward" Riverina farmers would tell him to "f--- off" and demand their money for supply contracts regardless of any problems with investors.

Mr Maguire replied that had told a potential investor about ongoing returns and growth from the Leeton project.

In another call Mr Maguire told Mr Liu he believed then-NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair's office was "getting very nervous" about his "activities" in trying to speak to Bright Food.

"They're worried my interference is going to upset things," Mr Maguire said.

Mr Liu agreed with Mr Maguire's solicitor that Mr Maguire never asked for, nor was offered, a personal benefit from a business deal.

This story Cheque, all-expenses paid trip handed to former MP: ICAC hears first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.