Tony Kelly was shocked to open the door at his Wellington home to find his former colleague Joe Tripodi standing there with a hamburger in one hand and a coffee in the other.
Perish the thought the purpose of Mr Tripodi's unscheduled visit was to get their stories straight on a doctored cabinet minute which, if accepted, would have made the family of their crooked colleague Eddie Obeid even richer than a corrupt coal deal the Obeids had on the boil at the same time.
Mr Tripodi's trip took place on March 10 last year, only weeks after the Herald revealed the Independent Commission Against Corruption had started seizing documents in relation to the Obeid-linked company Australian Water Holdings, which is the subject of the current inquiry.
Surprise house call: Tony Kelly was visited last year by former colleague Joe Tripodi. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
As Mr Tripodi was giving his explanation that the 5½ hour trip was not to see Mr Kelly but was to source exportable lucerne in Wellington for a Chinese friend in Picton, counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson, SC, slid a note to his junior barrister. ''I'll bet you $2 that Tripodi says he went down to see Kelly for a hay deal involving some unnamed Chinese investors,'' it read. ''Pretty close isn't it?'' Mr Watson said.
Mr Tripodi was asked if he had told his former staffer and friend Rocco Leonello the reason ''you turned off your phone was because you didn't want anybody to track you as to where you were that day?''
''No, that's not right,'' said Mr Tripodi, his voice rising an octave. Mr Tripodi's phone was turned off from 8.04am until 6.25pm, just when he reached the Sydney side of the Blue Mountains.
Hamburger and a coffee: Joe Tripodi. Photo: Rob Homer
''Um, my, my telephone - just let me think about it. My telephone was off that day but it wasn't, it was actually in the car. I remember it was, I remember it was an issue driving out there because I didn't have my, I thought I didn't have my phone, it was in the car in the back seat and it was off, yes,'' Mr Tripodi said.
He was then informed the corruption watchdog was able to track his movements by his car's satellite navigation system.
Mr Kelly's version of events was that only one minute of their 20-30 minute conversation was spent on the cabinet minute. Although Mr Kelly said he does not ''like talking about Frank Sartor'', the topic of conversation turned to the former planning minister.
Mr Tripodi said that Mr Sartor was ''spending his time writing a book bagging out the Labor Party'', and that the altered cabinet minute was in his book.
''And then he finished his hamburger and said, 'OK, catch up with you' and off he went,'' Mr Kelly said.