Obeid faces more allegations

CORRUPT former Labor minister Eddie Obeid used two senior bureaucrats to make decisions enriching his family’s secret business ventures by millions of dollars.
Nanjing Night Net

Mr Obeid, former NSW Maritime chief executive Steve Dunn and former Department of Water and Energy director-general Mark Duffy are being investigated for corruption in a three-part probe by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

All three men face potential criminal charges if found to have acted corruptly, counsel assisting the ICAC, Ian Temby, QC, said in his opening address.

The commission is examining the Obeids’ interests in retail leases at Circular Quay, water licences covering their family farm in rural NSW and consultancy business Direct Health Solutions.

Mr Temby said the inquiries, codenamed Operation Cyrus, Cabot, and Meeka, spanned more than a decade and involved three government departments and four former Labor ministers.

Former waterways ministers Carl Scully, Michael Costa, Eric Roozendaal and Joe Tripodi will be called to give evidence in Operation Cyrus about Mr Obeid’s alleged attempts to lobby them to renew two retail leases at Circular Quay, for the Sorrentino Restaurant and Quay Eatery, without going to tender.

A NSW government plan to put the leases up for competitive tender was postponed by Mr Costa in August 2005, days after then Premier Bob Carr announced his resignation.

In January 2009, when Mr Tripodi was waterways minister, an Obeid-controlled company was given new five-year leases with the option to extend for another five years. The value of that right was estimated in 2001 to be at least $1million per lease.

‘‘Each of the ministers will say he did not know of the Obeid family interests in Circular Quay,’’ Mr Temby said.

The inquiry heard Mr Dunn was director of fisheries when Mr Obeid was the minister, and ‘‘the two men remained in contact thereafter’’.

Mr Dunn was appointed the chief executive of NSW Maritime in March 2008 and expressed a ‘‘specific interest’’ in the Circular Quay leases.

Mr Temby said the inquiry would consider if Mr Dunn played a role in the change to the government’s commercial lease policy to allow the leases to be awarded without a competitive tender ‘‘and if he did anything at the behest of Mr Edward Obeid’’.

Mr Dunn will also be called to give evidence in Operation Cabot, which is probing whether Mr Obeid lobbied bureaucrats in 2008 about lucrative water licences over his family’s rural property, Cherrydale Park.

The Bylong Valley property was at the heart of a previous inquiry by the ICAC, Operation Jasper, which found Mr Obeid and his political ally, former NSW Labor mining minister Ian Macdonald, corruptly agreed in 2008 to create a lucrative coal tenement over the farm in 2008.

Mr Costa will re-emerge in Operation Meeka, which probes the former Labor government’s dealings with Direct Health Solutions, a consultancy that was owned by an Obeid family company when it wrote to Mr Costa in August 2005 seeking a meeting to promote its services.

Mr Costa is expected to tell the ICAC he was unaware of the Obeids’ interest in the firm.

EDDIE OBEID

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