Obeids and Macdonald guilty of conspiracy

·3-min read

Former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid is set to return to jail after being found guilty of being part of a conspiracy related to a coal exploration licence which led to a $30 million windfall for his family.

The 77-year-old, his son Moses Obeid, 52, and fellow former minister Ian Macdonald, 72, were found guilty on Monday of conspiring for Macdonald to engage in misconduct as a minister between 2007 and 2009.

The misconduct related to the then mining minister's actions in establishing and granting a coal exploration licence over the Obeids' family property at Mount Penny, in the Bylong Valley near Mudgee, for the family's financial benefit.

After a marathon judge-alone trial that began in the NSW Supreme Court in February 2020, Justice Elizabeth Fullerton on Monday found the trio guilty of the charge.

During 77 sitting days, more than 6000 pages of exhibits were tendered and evidence was given by 38 witnesses.

The three accused and, at times, more than 450 other people watched online as the judge delivered her verdicts and a summary of her judgment.

On Thursday, she will hear crown applications for the men's bail to be revoked before their sentence hearing in September.

The judge was satisfied the Crown had established five of eight alleged acts of misconduct by Macdonald, involving him breaching his ministerial duties of confidentiality and/or impartiality.

He sought departmental inside information which he provided to the Obeids which was used in a rigged tender for the licence.

Justice Fullerton found Moses Obeid took a "hands on" approach to implementing and exploiting the information generated by Macdonald's successive acts of misconduct.

She also was satisfied he told a "number of deliberate and material lies" to journalists between May 2009 and December 2012 in an attempt to conceal the conspiracy.

In finding his father had a lesser role, the judge said it was inconceivable and implausible that the conspiracy involving his close personal colleague and son occurred without his knowledge and sanction.

"It is fundamental to our system of government that Ministers who occupy office as Members of the Executive Government are entrusted with powers, duties and responsibilities exclusively for the public benefit," she said.

But the scope and object of the agreement comprehended by the conspiracy constituted a "gross departure" from Macdonald's responsibilities.

They included ensuring that the exploitation of coal resources in NSW did not advantage one stakeholder over other potential stakeholders and that the processes were at all times "transparent and the highest standards of probity strictly adhered to".

But Macdonald had agreed with another MP and a member of that person's family "that he would deliberately breach his duties and obligations to advantage, favour or promote their personal financial interests".

Eddie Obeid was released on parole in December 2019, after serving three years for misconduct in public office.

He was jailed for five years in December 2016 after being found guilty of lobbying a public servant to secure lease renewals for two lucrative Circular Quay businesses in 2008 without revealing his family's financial interests in the outlets.

Macdonald and former union boss John Maitland are facing a retrial after being convicted and jailed in 2017 over the awarding of a mining licence in 2008 to a company chaired by Maitland.

The Court of Criminal Appeal in 2019 found the jury was not properly directed and ordered a retrial.

The Obeid coal exploration licence previously was investigated by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.

NSW Labor said Justice Fullerton's verdicts validated the need for a strong, well-funded ICAC and showed no one was above the law.

"These two individuals brought great shame on the NSW Labor Party and the NSW Parliament and now they must pay the consequences," it said in a statement.

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