The Australian Federal Police is investigating the controversial Leppington Triangle property purchase for potential criminal offences.
The probe follows the federal infrastructure department paying $30 million for a block of land later valued at just $3 million.
The purchase of land from Leppington Pastoral Company, owned by billionaire brothers Tony and Ron Perich, has been the subject of intrigue and scandal since being revealed in a blistering auditor-general report in September.
Federal officials were slammed for providing “inadequate and unreliable” advice, which meant taxpayers paid 10 times the true worth of the land near Western Sydney Airport.
The report claimed officials’ conduct “fell short of ethical standards” and was “not appropriate” in the purchase of the 12-hectare block.
The Australian National Audit Office accused the department of not properly briefing decision makers on the project, claiming staff “omitted relevant information” that led to the land’s value being vastly inflated.
Federal ministers and infrastructure officials have repeatedly dodged questions on the matter, citing further independent investigations into the purchase and the conduct of department staff. Deputy Prime Minister and infrastructure minister Michael McCormack said he was “disappointed” at the sale, but later came under fire for claiming it was actually a “bargain”.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, the minister for urban infrastructure at the time of the 2018 sale, claimed department officials “concealed” details from him.
On Friday, the AFP said it was investigating the affair. After the development was first reported by 7 News, the AFP confirmed the news to The New Daily in a brief statement.
“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,” an AFP spokesperson told TND.
“This investigation remains ongoing, and it is too early to speculate on potential outcomes, so no further comment will be provided.”
In a statement, the infrastructure department said it was aware of the investigation and was cooperating with the AFP.
“The Department is working openly and completely with the Australian Federal Police and will not be making further comment while the investigation is ongoing,” a spokesperson told TND.
Current minister for urban infrastructure, Alan Tudge, also noted the AFP probe.
“This matter was referred to the AFP by the ANAO, which was within its right,” a spokesperson for the minister told TND.
“The AFP will get the full co-operation of the Department. There are also two independent investigations underway into the matter that the Department has put in place.”