Eddie Obeid fronts up at ICAC hearing

Former NSW Labor powerbroker, Eddie Obeid, yesterday took the stand at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing, appearing confident and argumentative as he denied his involvement in any criminal activity.

Arriving at New South Wales’ biggest ever corruption inquiry Eddie Obeid was nothing if not confident; the ABC reported that when asked if he was worried that his empire would crumble, Obeid replied “Oh, far from it!”

Watson kept Obeid in the hot seat for the entirety of yesterday’s proceedings and didn’t waste time, getting straight to the point.

Watson asked: "You, Mr Obeid…engaged in a criminal conspiracy, you engaged in that with Ian Macdonald and with members of your family and the design was to effect a fraud on the people of NSW?" He replied, "That's incorrect."

Both the commissioner David Ipp, and counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson SC warned Obeid he could be charged with contempt if he continued to dodge questions and interrupt proceedings.

"Can you try and control yourself?" asked David Ipp, "You're not in Parliament now."

Obeid provoked the counsel assisting who at one point snapped, "Mr Obeid, do not smile at me."

"Mr Watson, I won't be intimidated by you or anyone else, you need to know that," Obeid replied.

Watson was questioning Obeid over the influence he had over the then Mining minister Ian Macdonald who opened up land Obeid and his family owned in the Bylong Valley to coal exploration.

"Did you have influence over Ian Macdonald?," he asked.

"No, I had access to him," Obeid replied.

"You were a personal friend?" Watson continued.

"Well, we've never socialised," Obeid clarified.

"Have you been out to dinner with him?" Watson asked.

"Oh, yes, many times," Obeid said.

It has been estimated the Obeid family stood to gain $100 million from coal mining in the Bylong Valley as a result of access to confidential Government information.

Counsel assisting suggested that within a month of Obeid discussing his property with Ian Macdonald, the minister ordered the creation of a mining tenement.

"Can you explain that coincidence?"

"No, I can't."

Following the creation of the mining tenement the Obeid family bought two more properties in the area.

Watson asked Obeid, "You and your family sought and received the creation of the Mt Penny tenement?"

"No," Obeid said.

The hearing was then played a secretly taped phone conversation between Eddie Obeid and Cascade Coal shareholder Greg Jones.

Cascade Coal won the tender to explore under the land owned by the Obeid family.

Obeid has said previously he had no memory of such a conversation ever taking place.

When the ABC asked Obeid how he thought yesterday’s proceedings went, the ever confident powerbroker replied: “Excellent”.

Eddie Obeid has in the past accused of letting his sons take the fall for the alleged corruption.

Last week Moses Obeid took the stand and told the inquiry the family would only make $75 million from the exploration deals.

Obeid continues to give evidence at the ICAC hearing today.

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