THE coal deal involving the family of Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid has taken a sensational turn with claims of blackmail, extortion, underworld figures, a famous footy player and the ''infamous Mr Fang''.
Arlo Murray Selby, 40, looked decidedly unwell as he sat fidgeting in the witness box of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Wearing bright blue striped braces and navy and white chalk-striped trousers, Mr Selby resembled a 1930s gangster.
As his evidence was prised from him it became clear the Obeids' coal deal involved some remarkably murky dealings.
Placed before Mr Selby was a five-page document signed by him and dated January 2011. The document detailed astonishing intricacies of the Obeids' 2008 coal deal, which was to net the family $100 million, the commission has heard.
The document claimed Mr Selby's longtime associate Moses Obeid had approached him to contact the underworld figure and debt collector Harry Calleia to fund the family's property purchases in the Bylong Valley. The inquiry has heard the three farms acquired by the Obeids and their associates happened to be right in the middle of a coal exploration area. ''His whole family had inside information in relation to the valley … the land was literally gold,'' Mr Selby in his statement.
His statement also claimed the Obeids had settled on Alan Fang from Tianda Resources ''to act as a front for the Obeid interests in the 2008 coal licence tender. But due to Mr Fang being publicly linked to then mining minister Ian Macdonald, Moses Obeid said it was ''too risky'' so there had to be a change of plan.
The statement also claimed Moses said: ''The outcome of the tender process is already guaranteed as we have the NSW Minister [Mr Macdonald] onside, hes [sic] in on the deal and that’s how we can guarantee we will win whatever tender we go for.’’
Mr Selby said Mr Fang was known as ‘‘the infamous Mr Fang’’ and was a ‘‘heat seeker’’ for the Chinese government.
The statement also suggested Moses arranged for then Labor ministers Michael Costa, Joe Tripodi and Ian Macdonald to attend a Lehman Brothers board meeting.
The commission has heard Gardner Brook, then a Lehman banker, was working with the Obeids to find a ‘‘front’’ company to disguise their investment in the bid for coal licences.
Mr Selby tried to distance himself from his 2011 statement even though it contained details known only to him and Mr Brook.
At the time you signed this statement it was ‘‘truthful and accurate?’’ he was asked. ‘‘I don’t recall my state of mind at that particular time,’’ he replied. And so it went on. The unresponsive nature of Mr Selby’s answers resulted in Commissioner David Ipp warning him of the dire consequences of being in contempt of the ICAC.
Mr Selby claimed the statement was part of a blackmail attempt by former Bulldogs front-rower Peter Tunks. ‘‘I think he [Tunks] wanted to use it to threaten people,’’ he said. Mr Selby said Mr Tunks was trying to recover money from Mr Brook ‘‘or even indeed the Obeids’’.
‘‘I think he felt grievous,’’ replied Mr Selby when asked why Mr Tunks wanted to use the statement signed by Mr Selby to threaten people. Mr Selby also claimed that the jailed underworld figure Tony Taylor, a close associate of Hells Angels’ boss Felix Lyle, was threatening him unless he did the statement.
‘‘Like what?’’ asked the commissioner. ‘‘Violence,’’ replied Mr Selby. ‘‘What violence? Break your arms? Kick you in the shins? Stab you?’’ asked Mr Brook’s barrister. ‘‘You know, the usual stuff, yeah, well the usual stuff,’’ said Mr Selby.
Mr Selby said he had met Eddie Obeid several times including at Bar Coluzzi in Darlinghurst but that he was dealing with Moses. ‘‘What were you dealing with him in?’’ asked the commissioner. ‘‘That connotation is obviously not good,’’ replied Mr Selby indignantly before adding, ‘‘property transactions, Commissioner’’.
Mr Selby’s statement also contained the observation that ‘‘as promised’’ the Obeids did win the tender. ‘‘I continued to hang out with Gardner Brook, however, Moses Obeid and his brothers distanced themselves from me as they thought I was too loose and might bring things unstuck.’’
Mr Brook will give evidence today.