A police officer who allegedly arranged a sham marriage with a Vietnamese woman and tried to fool officials into granting her residency in Australia has blamed the mix-up on his mother, who apparently demanded he marry a traditional Vietnamese woman.
But counsel assisting the Police Integrity Commission has dismissed the claim as ridiculous, and told the officer to consider changing his evidence.
Senior Constable Hoan Thien "Ryan" Pham and his de facto partner, Bich Tuyen Kha, are accused of organising three marriages — one for him and two for her — and collecting tens of thousands of dollars to deceive the Department of Immigration and Citizenship into granting visas under spousal provisions.
The couple wed in Sydney in 2006 but did not formally register their union.
They allegedly forged documents and posed for fake family photos for their other marriages. Once their "spouses" were granted residency, they barely saw or spoke to them again.
At a PIC hearing this afternoon, Senior Constable Pham said his relationship with Ms Tuyen Kha broke down two years after their marriage and that he had fallen in love with another woman, known as Tran.
Tran's visa is still pending.
He said his mother placed unbearable pressure on him to leave Ms Tuyen Kha and find a more traditional Vietnamese woman, which he did.
However, the commission was then played intercepted telephone calls where Ms Tuyen Kha speaks to Tran's sister about the scam. They talk about writing fake emails and staging "pretend" phone calls and photos. They laugh as they talk about deceiving DIAC and even suggest that Senior Constable Pham's job means they won't be as scrutinised by immigration officials.
"They [will] start to back away because he's a police officer," Ms Tuyan Kha says. "They have got integrity, you know. They have got ... trust, you know."
Senior Constable Pham explained that even though his relationship with Ms Tuyen Kha had broken down because of his mother, they remained on such good terms that they still lived together and looked after a child while she helped him find a new love and bring her to Australia.
He said Ms Tuyen Kha was not trying to deceive authorities but was simply giving him "advice" on how to be reunited with his new love.
The counsel assisting the PIC, Jeremy Gormly, SC, suggested that this was ridiculous and that Senior Constable Pham remained in a "committed" relationship with his wife while they arranged other scam marriages.
He gave the officer an adjournment to consider whether he would like to change his evidence. The hearing resumes this afternoon.