Border Force boss says it did not know Monica Hao was ICAC witness

Australian Border Force chief Michael Outram says there was no way for his agency to know that a migration agent was a key ICAC witness before it allowed her to leave the country.

Monica Hao, 58, was summonsed to appear before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on September 16 as part of its investigation into a cash-for-visa scheme linked to Daryl Maguire, the former member for Wagga Wagga.

Australian Border Force boss Michael Outram says there was no way for his agency to know that Monica Hao was an ICAC witness.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

But Ms Hao flew to Dubai on Emirates flight EK415 on August 19, at a time when Australian citizens and permanent residents needed an exemption to leave the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

She was given a travel exemption to leave the country by Border Force, which was never notified Ms Hao was the subject of a summons to appear before the ICAC and she was not on the nation’s movement alert list.

Mr Outram said on Friday there was no way for the ABF to know Ms Hao was a witness for ICAC.

Unknown to ICAC, Monica Hao left Australia on Emirates flight EK415 to Dubai on August 19.Credit:ICAC

“Let me tell you, unequivocally, the Australian Border Force was not aware, and nor should we have been because they work in secrecy, that this person was going to be summons to appear in front of an ICAC hearing.” he told Sky News.

“They were not on the alert system as requiring the Australian Border Force take any action whatsoever at the border should they decide to leave the country.”

He said the ICAC “works in secrecy” and nobody in Border Force would have known Ms Hao was a witness.

“My office don’t have the power to stop them leaving. What we would do is ring the police force or the ICAC and say: ‘This person’s at the border now, we’ve got them in our customs control area, what do you want us to do?’,” he said.

“If they said ‘prevent them from leaving’, we’d say ‘you probably need to come down here then and arrest the person.’”

The Australian Federal Police and the Department of Home Affairs have also been investigating the cash-for-visa scheme.

Ms Hao, who is an Australian citizen, is still believed to be overseas and her solicitor has been unable to reach her by phone or email. She was in China last year for several months before returning to Australia in August 2020.

The ICAC last year heard Mr Maguire used his parliamentary office to silently direct business network G8wayinternational Pty Ltd. The business offered an illegitimate migration scheme under which Australian employers could earn a cash commission for falsely employing Chinese nationals full-time so they could obtain a visa, according to evidence before the inquiry. During hearings in 2020, it emerged Mr Maguire was in a relationship with former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian for a number of years.

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