The family of a man with a criminal record in Italy linked to the Calabrian mafia allegedly used political fundraising to access federal MPs and have his deportation overturned.
The first part of a joint Fairfax-ABC investigation into the mafia's links to Australian politics aired on the ABC's Four Corners program on Monday.
It says then immigration minister Philip Ruddock's 1996 order to deport illegal migrant Francesco "Frank" Madafferi was overturned by his replacement, Amanda Vanstone, in 2005 despite his convictions for extortion, mafia conspiracy, two stabbings and drug and gun possession in Calabria.
Madafferi married an Australian woman but the program alleges he was suspected of significant criminal dealings following his arrival in Australia in 1989.
"If you have a person who comes and I think in this matter marries an Australian and then seeks to stay, and there is a serious criminal record in my view and that should be taken into account, and the view that I formed was that on the basis of the criminal record, he should be deported," Mr Ruddock told Four Corners.
The Madafferi family failed in court to overturn the deportation.
The program said Frank's brother Antonio (Tony), a wealthy Melbourne businessman, used Sydney political donor and furniture dealer Nick Scali to arrange a meeting with a NSW Liberal Party identity linked with the Millennium Forum.
The Millennium Forum has been investigated by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.
The program alleged the Liberal figure arranged a meeting between Mr Ruddock, Mr Scali and the Madafferi's family lawyer.
Angry at the lawyer's surprise attendance, Mr Ruddock ended the meeting.
Ms Vanstone replaced him as immigration minister in 2003.
Tony Madafferi then called on another political donor, property developer Pasquale "Pat" Sergi.
In 1979, the Woodward royal commission found Mr Sergi was trading in real estate using money provided by mafia drug traffickers, the program said.
It said the Madafferis and supporters launched a political lobbying campaign in which Mr Sergi approached NSW Liberal senator Marise Payne while others lobbied Victorian MP Russell Broadbent and NSW MP Bruce Billson.
All three approached Ms Vanstone about the Madafferi case, the program said.
Tony Madafferi arranged a political fundraiser in Melbourne attended by all three where Ms Vanstone was guest speaker and Mr Madafferi personally donated $15,000 to the Millennium Forum, the program alleged.
In November 2005, Ms Vanstone overturned the deportation.
Ms Vanstone and the three MPs declined to comment to Four Corners, but said their intervention was based on humanitarian concerns about its impact on the Madafferis.
Mr Billson told Fairfax quoted in a report published on Monday: "The request made of me for assistance ... was a contrived veneer covering a far darker and disturbing situation."