Eddie Obeid Remains Defiant in the Wake of Prosecution

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014
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Eddie Obeid
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Eddie Obeid remains dismissively, irritatingly defiant.

The former Labor kingmaker was confident he would not face prosecution after being found corrupt by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. He was wrong about that.

Now Obeid will soon face court on the serious charge of misconduct in public office.

Once again he is confident.

“Innocent in every instance,” the 71-year-old former NSW upper house MP told reporters at the gates of his mansion in the plush Sydney suburb of Hunters Hill on Thursday.

“I’m looking forward to being in court.”

But if, once again, he is wrong, Obeid faces an unknowable fate: there is no set penalty for the charge of misconduct in public office.

Obeid is charged over his alleged inducement of a senior NSW Maritime Authority bureaucrat, Stephen Dunn, to give favourable treatment to an Obeid-linked company that owned valuable leases for cafes at the prime Sydney waterfront site of Circular Quay.

In June, ICAC found Obeid had engaged in corrupt conduct by misusing his position as a member of parliament to benefit his family’s financial interests.

ICAC’s Operation Cyrus found Obeid lobbied former ports minister Joe Tripodi and Mr Dunn – both of whom were also labelled corrupt – to change the lease renewal process for Circular Quay properties.

Obeid pushed to have public tenders for leases scrapped – while failing to reveal that his family stood to benefit through its hidden interests.

That corruption finding was on top of another made in July, 2013, in relation to Obeid’s role in a rigged tender for the Mount Penny coal licence near Mudgee, NSW.

No charge has been brought in relation to that case but, in another blow for the Obeid family, Eddie’s sons, Paul and Moses, lost a bid on Thursday to avoid giving evidence to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about the deal.

The junior Obeids have been ordered to give evidence to an ACCC investigation of alleged cartel conduct around the Mount Penny deal.

For many people the move to prosecute Obeid senior was long overdue.

Obeid has been found corrupt in four inquiries but his dismissal of the ICAC findings had raised concerns the corruption watchdog was toothless.

“About time,” was how NSW Premier Mike Baird greeted the news.

“These prosecutions coming forward is going to be of great comfort to the community. This is exactly what they want to see.”

Mr Baird will also be happy to see the prosecutions: 10 Liberal Party MPs have stepped down or quit parliament as ICAC probed illegal donations this year, and the premier will enjoy having the focus back on Labor’s wrongdoings as the 2015 election approaches.

Obeid’s case will come before Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on December 18.

On Thursday the former Labor powerbroker said court would be his chance to advance evidence that was not put before ICAC.

It’s not clear what the court case will bring if a conviction should result.

Only four people were sentenced for misconduct in public office between 2006 and 2012.

University of Sydney criminologist Professor Mark Findlay said three of those cases resulted in jail terms of 2.5 to 4.5 years, with the other case attracting a fine.

Former ICAC commissioner Jerrold Cripps told AAP that any penalty for a conviction on misconduct in public office depends on the circumstances and the severity of the offence, and seniority of the accused is a factor.

“If you take the case of a person who becomes a senior politician, they have a statutory obligation to act for the welfare of the state,” Mr Cripps said.

“Therefore you would take the view that the higher up the hierarchy, the higher are the expectations that they would behave properly and act in the public interest.”


By Peter Trute
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