| 16.10,20. 05:29 PM |
Australian Federal Police investigating $30 million Federal Government purchase of Western Sydney Airport land
The land is not expected to be used as part of the airport for decades.(ABC News: Supplied)
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has launched an investigation into potential criminal offences relating to a controversial land deal in Western Sydney.
The Leppington Triangle was purchased by the Commonwealth for $30 million as part of the Western Sydney Airport project a Badgerys Creek
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) was scathing of the deal, because the land was only valued at $3 million.
"The AFP can confirm it is conducting an investigation to identify potential criminal offences relating to issues identified in an ANAO report into the sale of land to the Commonwealth at Badgerys Creek," the AFP said in a statement.
"This investigation remains ongoing, and it is too early to speculate on potential outcomes, so no further comment will be provided."
The land sits at the end of the proposed second runway of the airport and was purchased in 2018, 32 years before it will be needed as part of a future expansion of the currently in-development airport.
Cabinet minister Paul Fletcher previously labelled information given to him about the inflated land sale as "deficient" and blamed department officials for allowing the deal to sail through unquestioned.
Audit slammed Commonwealth purchase price
The Commonwealth purchased the 12-hectare pocket of land for $29.8 million from the Leppington Pastoral Company (LPC).
LPC is one of the largest family-owned dairy companies in Australia, run by billionaire brothers Tony and Ron Perich. The company has diversified from cattle to commercial property, with a string of investments in and around Sydney.
The ANAO, in its audit, questioned the integrity of the valuation and sale process, arguing the Government took an approach usually used for dealing with an "unwilling seller".
But the ANAO said there were repeated references to "goodwill" between the Commonwealth, the New South Wales Government and LPC leading up to the sale.
Serious concerns were raised about why only one valuation of the land was obtained prior to the sale, and why that work was done by a valuer suggested by LPC.
Shadow Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said the Opposition did not refer the matter to the AFP but they hoped the investigation "gets to the bottom" of who made the decision.
"There is something very, very smelly that has gone on here," she said.
"[If] any corruption that has occurred, any criminal activity that has occurred, including on the part of the Department or ministers or staff, we absolutely need to get to the bottom of it immediately."
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack had previously backed the sale.
"Eventually, when there is needing to be more runways and more infrastructure built at Western Sydney Airport, they'll look back and they'll say, probably, what a bargain that was," he told Sydney radio station 2GB last month.
"Yes it's over the odds and yes I appreciate that there should have been a better process around it, but it has been a decision taken for $30 million.
"Yes, it's a lot of money, but in time, it will be a very good investment."
The Western Sydney Airport development has also been the subject of anti-corruption hearings in NSW this week.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is looking into whether disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire used his position for financial gain.
The inquiry heard an intercepted phone call between Mr Maguire and his former partner, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, in which he said he could make $1.5 million in a deal he was working on involving land in Western Sydney, owned by Louise Waterhouse's Smart West.
That sale is separate to the one the AFP is now investigating.
The ABC has contacted Leppington Pastoral for comment about today's development.