A former assistant police commissioner says he was aware of allegations a Queensland millionaire sexually abused boys and flew them to Sydney.

Queensland police were aware of allegations boys held in state care were being flown to Sydney to be abused by a millionaire and a chef in the mid 1970s, a former assistant police commissioner says.

Retired assistant commissioner David Jefferies has told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he received information a Queensland millionaire, known as JA, flew boys to Sydney to be abused as part of a pedophile ring.

“This JA was certainly known as a millionaire and had, I believe, a construction business, and we certainly had received information about children actually going to his home,” Mr Jefferies said.

“We were aware that boys in state care and from some institutions had in fact been flown to Sydney.”

Mr Jefferies said he had a hazy recollection a chef was involved in the allegations, but could not speak to whether the man lived in the Sydney suburb of Paddington.

Working for Queensland’s Juvenile Aid Bureau from 1968 to 1989, Mr Jefferies said he investigated allegations four pedophiles were operating in the northern Brisbane suburbs and the Gold Coast in the early 1970s.

One, JA, was a millionaire, and the other was a school teacher known to the commission as JB.

He said four suspects were arrested, but he and his partner were waved off investigating JA and JB and told to hand the case to more experienced officers.

“In the event the only conviction that resulted were against the two suspects that (partner Dugald) McMillan and I dealt with,” Mr Jefferies said.

Earlier this week, retired Salvation Army major Clifford Randall told the commission a boy who absconded from the Alkira home for boys in Queensland said he and his friend had been flown to Sydney by a wealthy Brisbane shop owner and taken to the home of a “top chef” in Paddington.

But Mr Jefferies said he could not categorically say whether the boys in the allegations he investigated came from he Alkira.

The commission is examining the Salvation Army’s response to child sexual abuse at four of its homes.

Also on Wednesday, a former supervisor at the Queensland department of children’s services told the commission some Salvation Army institutions were “fiefdoms unto themselves”, but there was a reluctance within the government to close problem, church-run schools.

Jan Doyle said while there were concerns within the department about the physical state of the Riverview Training farm, it was unlikely to have been aware of a slew of abuse complaints against it.

But had they been aware, there would have been resistance on a political level to remove their licences to care for children.

“We were a government department and we were controlled by a minister, and ministers are very much aware of who they will upset,” Ms Doyle said.

“The churches at the time, in the early 1970s, were very powerful – not just the Salvation Army, the Anglicans, the Catholics, the Baptists, and I don’t think any politician wished to read about themselves on the front page of the daily paper.”

The commission also heard the department was told of an inflexible, excessively punitive and authoritarian approach to child care at another Salvation Army boys home, Alkira in the mid 1970s.