Police to question MPs over cash-for-visa allegations
Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker. smh
February 24, 2009
THE Australian Federal Police has launched a fresh investigation into cash-for-visa allegations involving the Liberal Party and alleged Mafia figures.
Its Commissioner, Mick Keelty, said yesterday a previous inquiry was dropped in 2007 due to insufficient evidence. This looked into party donations by businessmen with suspected Mafia links who wanted to help an alleged criminal avoid deportation.
But Mr Keelty told a Senate hearing federal police had last month begun a new inquiry after they received fresh information about donations to the Liberals by supporters of Francesco Madafferi, who is facing a drug trafficking charge resulting from the world's biggest ecstasy bust last year.
It is expected federal police will question several serving or former federal MPs and their staff over the allegations, which included a claim that a former NSW Liberal aide expressed concern about the donations. Mr Keelty declined to discuss whether serving or former politicians, their staff and Liberal officials had been interviewed as part of the initial investigation.
"Given the nature of the investigation that has now been reopened I don't think it would be appropriate for me to describe who has been interviewed whether they be politicians, former politicians or staff," he said.
"It would be operational in terms of what they [AFP officers] did … and how far they took it."
In November 2005 Madafferi received a visa after the then immigration minister, Amanda Vanstone, intervened.
Her predecessor, Philip Ruddock, had decided to deport Madafferi to Italy because he was an illegal immigrant with an outstanding warrant in his home country, where he faced four years' jail.
But Ms Vanstone overturned the deportation order on "humanitarian" and mental health grounds.
Ms Vanstone, now the ambassador to Italy, has said that donations from Madafferi's supporters had no influence on her decision.
Among the donors is Antonio Madafferi, Francesco's brother, who is named in coronial inquiries as a member of a suspected Calabrian crime family.
At least three federal Liberal MPs and one NSW Liberal MP raised Madafferi's visa case with Ms Vanstone and the Immigration Department after being approached by businessmen from the Italian community.