Police have closed an investigation into why the Federal Government bought land near western Sydney Airport for 10 times its value after finding no evidence of criminal conduct.
The Department of Infrastructure paid $32.8million for the 12-hectare Leppington Triangle land in 2018 but then valued it at $3,065,000 eleven months later.
An investigation by the Australian National Audit Office found the government’s ‘valuation approach inflated the value of the land, which in turn led to the Australian Government paying more than was proper in the circumstances.’
Police have closed an investigation into why the Federal Government bought land near western Sydney Airport (pictured) for 10 times its value
The body asked the police to investigate the possibility the government was conned or that public officials were corrupt – but officers found no evidence of any crimes.
‘The investigation involved the analysis of extensive documentary and digital holdings, the interview of numerous relevant people – including Department of Infrastructure staff who were involved in the acquisition process – and a detailed financial analysis of payments made in relation to the purchase,’ the AFP said in a statement.
‘The investigation did not identify any evidence of criminal offending by Commonwealth officials, or other people involved in the purchase.
‘The financial analysis undertaken as part of the investigation found no evidence of Commonwealth officials obtaining a personal benefit from the acquisition, or other persons receiving or paying corrupt payments.
‘The AFP investigation found that the purchase was in line with the requirements of the Lands Acquisition Act (1989), and was authorised by appropriate Commonwealth officials and authorities.’
Why the government paid so much for the land remains a mystery.
The government paid about $30million for a 12-hectare plot for the Western Sydney Airport (pictured) in 2018
Geoffrey Watson SC, the director of the Centre of Public Integrity, previously said that if there was no corruption then ‘gross incompetence’ was to blame.
The land is not needed until 2050 when Western Sydney Airport’s second runway is to be built. It has been leased back to the seller for 10 years.
The Leppington Triangle land sale came under scrutiny through the Senate estimates process last year.
In March officials said the project was on track with the airport to open in 2026, with expectations travel will resume close to pre-Covid levels by 2024.
The federal government has put about $20billion into the Western Sydney Airport project, in relation to construction and an adjoining rail line and infrastructure.