By Staff Writers
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in New South Wales has found that former state Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid and mining minister Ian MacDonald engaged in corrupt conduct in relation to the creation of the Mount Penny mining tenement in the Bylong Valley.
At the conclusion of a marathon investigation that has forced the ALP’s federal branch to take over administration of its state political sibling, the ICAC found that “the conduct Mr Macdonald engaged in included entering into an agreement with Edward Obeid Sr and Moses Obeid whereby he acted contrary to his public duty as a minister of the Crown by arranging for the creation of the Mount Penny tenement to benefit Edward Obeid Sr, Moses Obeid and other members of the Obeid family.”
The ICAC also found there was corrupt conduct “by entering into an agreement with Edward Obeid Sr and Moses Obeid whereby Mr Macdonald acted contrary to his public duty as a minister of the Crown by providing Moses Obeid or members of the Obeid family with confidential information to benefit Edward Obeid Sr, Moses Obeid and other members of the Obeid family.”
Moses Obeid is the son of Edward Obeid. He was also found to have engaged in corrupt conduct by the ICAC along with businessmen Travers Duncan, John McGuigan, John Atkinson, John Kinghorn and Richard Poole.
“Mr Macdonald also acted corruptly by deciding to reopen the expressions of interest (EOI) process for mining exploration licences in order to favour Mr Duncan, and by providing Mr Duncan with confidential information, being the document titled "Proposed NSW Coal Allocations", and advice that the process for EOIs in coal release areas was to be reopened,” the ICAC’s report said.
“By the time the investors in Cascade wanted to enter into a deal with the White Energy Company Ltd to sell their asset for $500 million, there had been some public discussion about the Obeid family's involvement in the Bylong Valley. The investors in Cascade came to a view that the transaction would founder if it ever emerged that the Obeids had been or were involved. The means of extracting the Obeid interest was through the introduction of two new "cleanskin" companies, Southeast Investments Group Pty Ltd, an Obeid entity, and Coal & Minerals Group Pty Ltd, a company owned by a Cascade investor and his family,” the report said.
Under NSW law, while the ICAC can make finding of corrupt conduct, the body itself does not have powers of criminal prosecution.
It can however refer matters to the state’s Director of Public Prosecutions and has indicated it will do so.
“The Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with respect to the prosecution of Mr Macdonald, Edward Obeid Sr, Moses Obeid, Mr Duncan, Mr McGuigan, Mr Atkinson and Mr Poole for various offences,” the ICAC report said.
“The Commission will also furnish to the Commonwealth DPP evidence that may be admissible in the prosecution of Mr Duncan, Mr McGuigan, Mr Kinghorn and Mr Atkinson for offences under the Corporations Act 2001.”
The big sums of money made through the corrupt conduct has not escaped ICAC’s attention.
Its report said that “there was evidence before the Commission of the financial benefits accrued to the Obeid family as a result of the corrupt conduct the ICAC has found to have been engaged in by Edward Obeid Sr and Moses Obeid.”
The anti-corruption body has said that it has provided “relevant information to the NSW Crime Commission for such action as the NSW Crime Commission considers appropriate.”
That action could include the seizure of assets.
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