Obeid to face second stage of ICAC enquiry
The Independent Commission Against Corruption moves on to the second potentially explosive stage of the Eddie Obeid inquiry. Kate McClymont reports.PT2M1S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-29790 620 349 November 12, 2012
LABOR kingpin Eddie Obeid has declared he will be found innocent of the allegations of corruption levelled against him and his family by a big corruption inquiry.
''Of course I will be f---ing vindicated,'' he said in a heated interview with Fairfax Media last week. ''I have been looked inside out with a microscope up my arse and everything is clean as far as I am concerned.''
Today marks the start of a wide-ranging investigation into a series of coal licences issued by the disgraced former resources minister, Ian Macdonald. The Independent Commission Against Corruption will also examine whether Mr Macdonald's decision was influenced by Mr Obeid, the former upper house MP.
"I have been looked inside out with a microscope up my arse" ... Labor kingpin Eddie Obeid. Photo: Peter Rae
While the commission is examining the finer points of the Obeid family's mining interests, another part of its business empire is unravelling.
Two lucrative cafe leases at Circular Quay in which the family holds an interest will be terminated by the state government over non-payment of rent totalling more than $275,000.
It is understood Roads and Maritime Services will begin action today to cancel the leases for Cafe Sorrentino and Quay Eatery.
The leases were not due to expire until December next year but it is understood that in May, Circular Quay Restaurants sought a 50 per cent rent reduction as part of a broader application by local traders citing poor economic conditions.
RMS rejected the application in August and debt collectors were appointed in late September.
In May Fairfax Media revealed that Mr Obeid's family had a secret interest in the two cafe leases amid the ferry wharves as well as in a lease for another Circular Quay business, Arc Cafe.
During hearings at ICAC last week, Mr Obeid confirmed the family's interest, which is held
via a front company, Circular Quay Restaurants Pty Ltd.
Mr Obeid admitted he had lobbied the then waterways minister, Eric Roozendaal, in 2005 for favourable treatment over the renewal of the leases - without disclosing the interest.
In the Fairfax interview Mr Obeid said he was not a beneficiary of the tens of millions of dollars that have flowed through various Obeid family trusts. ''I am not a beneficiary of anything,'' he said.
During his two decades in politics, he declared his only income was from Parliament.
When asked how he afforded his lavish lifestyle, which includes top-of-the-range Mercedes cars driven by him and his wife, Judy, and a planned $2 million renovation to the family home at Hunters Hill, Mr Obeid said: ''I had plenty of money before I came into politics''.
Fairfax has revealed that while in Parliament, Mr Obeid lobbied numerous ministers without revealing that his family would benefit from a favourable decision. This included reports on Saturday that he lobbied the former finance minister Michael Costa over a health company secretly owned by the Obeid family.
Just before the Labor government lost power last year, the planning minister, Tony Kelly, was lobbied by Mr Obeid over plans to develop the Elizabeth Bay marina in which the Obeids have a hidden investment.
Another former minister has revealed being lobbied by Mr Obeid over the Catholic Church's property interests at Lake Cathie, near Port Macquarie. The minister was horrified when he later discovered that Mr Obeid owned the land next door and would have benefited enormously had his lobbying for the church been successful.
Mr Obeid told ICAC: ''There's no obligation for me when I'm talking about an issue in general to be specific about my family.''
Last week, Mr Obeid was questioned about a $10,800 discount his family arranged for the former treasurer Eric Roozendaal. The inquiry heard evidence, which the Obeid family denied, that the car was arranged by Eddie Obeid's son Moses because Eric had ''done a few favours for dad''.
''The last person we would trust with anything is another politician. They hang you as soon as you look at them … You never ask anyone for a favour,'' Mr Obeid told Fairfax.
He said he was ''100 per cent'' sure he would be vindicated at the end of the inquiry which is expected to run for several months. ''You're just doom and gloom people that want to write misery. How do you sleep at night?'' he said.
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