eddie obeid Featured in an unprecedented seven corruption inquiries: Eddie Obeid. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
The fact that Eddie Obeid is still tooling around town behind the wheel of his top-of-the-range Mercedes and enjoying the comforts of his $10 million palatial abode in Hunters Hill, is galling to many.
It is perhaps even more galling since the ashes of Barry O’Farrell’s leadership lie smouldering following his extraordinary self-immolation after he staked his premiership on the receipt of a $3000 bottle of wine.
Mr Obeid, 70, possibly the most venal politician this state has ever known, has featured in an unprecedented seven corruption inquiries.
His first, in 2002, was prompted by a Herald investigation which revealed the then fisheries minister had attempted to solicit a $1 million donation to the ALP in order to remove planning roadblocks hampering the development of the contentious Oasis project in Liverpool. Mr Obeid was exonerated by the corruption watchdog and later successfully sued the Herald.
In more recent years Mr Obeid has featured in a string of inquiries ranging from his family’s secret interest in cafes at Circular Quay to the infamous Mount Penny coal inquiry where the family enriched themselves to the tune of $30 million.
The latest inquiry into the Obeid family’s secret shareholding in infrastructure company Australian Water Holdings heard that if the Obeid family friend Nick Di Girolamo had achieved a private/public relationship with the O’Farrell government the Obeids may have been $60 million better off.
The suddenness of Mr O’Farrell’s departure is an aberration when it comes to ICAC inquiries and that is because Mr O’Farrell’s departure was not prompted by an ICAC finding.
The saying ”the wheels of justice grind slowly” are particularly true when it comes to prosecutions after corruption inquiries. The first step is for the ICAC commissioner to review the evidence before furnishing a report to Parliament.
It is unlikely that a final report on the present inquiry will be completed before July.
Because evidence given at the ICAC normally can’t be used against a person, except in cases of perjury, fresh statements from the key players must be obtained.
Sometimes, evidence which is crucial to uncovering corruption, such as solicitors’ notes, is not available in a subsequent criminal prosecution.
With regard to the Mount Penny coal inquiry, branded the most sensational since the days of the Rum Corps, a partial brief of evidence has gone to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which has carriage of any criminal matters.
Further statements are being completed.
In the coal case, the commission recommended that the DPP consider charging the former ministers Ian Macdonald and Mr Obeid with the criminal offence of conspiracy to defraud, or misconduct in public office.
The ICAC also recommended that Mr Obeid and his son Moses be charged with conspiracy to defraud in relation to Mr Macdonald’s creation of a coal tenement right over their Mount Penny property.
Further statements needed for the brief of evidence against business figures Travers Duncan, John McGuigan, John Atkinson and Richard Poole are being obtained. The commission recommended they be charged for offences under the Crimes Act for obtaining a financial advantage by deception.
In addition, the Commonwealth DPP is considering whether Mr Duncan, Mr McGuigan, Mr Atkinson and John Kinghorn and will face charges over breaches of the Corporations Act.
Mr Obeid’s sons Moses and Paul, along with their friends Rocco and Ross Triulcio, are facing potential criminal charges for giving false evidence to ICAC over the provision of a discount Honda to then roads minister Eric Roozendaal.