Australia’s real estate market has been scorching in recent years with brokers struggling to supply an adequate pipeline of sites to both local developers and a growing cast of mainland players hungry to build more homes in Sydney, Melbourne and other major cities.
Demand from a subsidiary of China’s largest developer by sales is now said to have led to the following conversation between a pair of Australian players regarding a site in the southwestern Sydney suburb of Canterbury in 2016.
“If he’s going to give you 1.5 per cent that’s not enough,” a speaker named Maguire was revealed as saying. “1.5 per cent isn’t enough divided by two if you know what I’m talking about.”
Maguire then went on to say that three percent commission was better.
The site seeker added that he had a buyer interested in shovel-ready plots, asking a counterpart named Hawatt in a phone conversation, ““Have you got plans? Have you got the whole thing already done?”
“My client is mega-big, OK,” Maguire explained. “If he’s interested my client is mega big and has got mega money and wants two or three DA (development application) approved projects right now. Today.”
Unfortunately, for Country Garden Australia, part of Guangzhou-based Country Garden Holdings, the site-brokering was carried out by New South Wales Liberal MP Daryl Maguire and Canterbury City Councillor Michael Hawatt, and Maguire now says that Country Garden had retained him for the task.
The phone conversation was recorded as a part of an investigation by local authorities in Australia, and recordings of multiple conversations between Maguire and Hawatt were played on Friday during an inquiry conducted by Australia’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The skullduggery was reported in an account in Australia’s The Urban Developer.
Chinese Said to Have Employed Politician as Broker
Maguire, who resigned from Australia’s Liberal party within the last week, but remains a member of parliament, was caught together with Hawatt in an investigation of the Canterbury Council regarding corruption involving a 300 unit plot in the suburb which eventually sold for A$51 million ($38 million).
Country Garden has denied any involvement.
“Country Garden Australia (CGA) takes any suggestion of misconduct or impropriety extremely
seriously,” Country Garden said in a statement today. “CGA will fully comply with and assist authorities with any enquiries into the matter, should this be required of the organisation.”
The developer added that, “The Country Garden Group has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards misconduct across its regional operations around the world,”and also pointed out that it failed to acquire the Canterbury site.
Maguire has already told the ICAC that Tim Lakos, who served as development director for Country Garden when the calls took place, was his friend. Lakos left the developer in March of this year. The politician has also admitted to attempting to introduce developers to Hawatt in the hopes of earning commissions, but said that he never actually collected on any deals. The politician has not commented on whether he collected exclusive agency fees for his efforts or was engaged on a success basis.
Dirty Pol Served as Advisor to Chinese NGO
Beyond his stated involvement with Country Garden, Maguire, who says he intends to keep his parliamentary seat until his term ends next year, also served as an advisor to the Australia Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China, a group said to be part of China’s United Front propaganda network and as chairman of the New South Wales Parliament Asia Pacific Friendship Group, according to an account in the Sydney Morning Herald.
In May 2013, Maguire hosted a press conference inside the New South Wales parliament to assist Wang Pijun, an official from China’s United Front Work Department in promoting a propaganda exhibition of paintings about Tibet. The press conference was staged two weeks before a visit to Australia by the Dalai Lamai.
Country Garden Australia Now at Four Projects
While best known internationally for its controversial Forest City mega-project in Malaysia’s Johor state, Country Garden has a significant presence in Australia over the past four and a half years.
Just last month Country Garden Australia was revealed as having agreed last December to pay A$69.88 million to acquire a set of six plots in the southwestern Sydney suburb of Cawdor from a local family. According to an account in Australia’s Daily Telegraph, the site was revealed three months after the purchase to be part of the upcoming M9 Orbital Outer Sydney Orbital corridor, a combined road and rail link between the southwest and northwest sections of the Sydney metro area.
Also last year, Country Garden spent A$400 million to acquire a residential site in a Melbourne suburb which was already approved for construction of more than 4,000 homes. Since dubbed Windermere, the developer announced earlier this month that it had sold out the first stage of homes in the project.
In 2016 the Chinese group bought a site in St Leonards, a suburb just north of the Sydney CBD for a price of about A$45 million, after first entering the city in late 2013 with its acquisition of an A$73 million site approved for 830 units of housing from industrial specialist Goodman.