Macdonald and ‘mate’ Maitland acted corruptly over Doyles Creek: ICAC

Former NSW Labor minister Ian Macdonald has been declared to have acted corruptly over the approval of a coal exploration licence.

The verdict was handed down today, a month after finding him guilty of engaging in corrupt conduct and referring the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption carried out Operation Acacia, the investigation into the Doyles Creek coal exploration tenement approved by Macdonald to a company headed by former Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union head John Maitland and other businessmen.

It found Maitland made millions of dollars from the licence approval, The Australian reported.

ICAC called on prosecutors to seek criminal charges against Macdonald, Maitland, Newcastle businessman Craig Ransley, and others.

Investigations found Ransley acted corruptly, along with company director Richard Poole and financial adviser Michael Chester.

ICAC said the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) should seek criminal charges against Macdonald for misconduct in public office, and against Maitland, Ransley and Poole for circulating false information to the Department of Primary Industries.  

Macdonald and Ransley maintained innocence today.

“It is based on guess work and conjecture,” Macdonald said of the findings in a statement.

“ICAC again demonstrates bias and prejudice towards me.”

“There was no wrong doing or misconduct on my part. I did not receive a benefit of any kind.

“I granted the exploration licence after receiving a department brief recommending I grant the licence for a training mine. It was not to benefit Mr Maitland. It was for the public good.”

Doyles Creek exploration licence was granted as a closed tender to Maitland and Ransley for a training mine in 2008.

The mining proposal was filled with so many misleading and false statements it was fraudulent, the ICAC inquiry heard.

Chester denied adding false information purposefully in the submission to Macdonald in support of the licence being granted.

Maitland and other investors purportedly made $84.74 million profit when NuCoal bought the licence in 2010.

Today’s verdict comes a month after the verdict on Operation Jasper, where Macdonald, Eddie Obeid, his son Moses Obeid and others were found to have engaged in corrupt conduct.

ICAC referred the matter to the DPP.

According to ICAC, Maitland made $14 million from a $165,000 investment, with other investors also benefiting.

“The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption has found that former NSW Minister for mineral resources Ian Macdonald engaged in corrupt conduct by acting contrary to his duty as minister of the Crown in granting Doyles Creek Mining Pty Lyd (DCM) consent to apply for a coal exploration licence (EL) for land at Doyles Creek and granting the EL to DCM, both grants being substantially for the purpose of benefiting the company chairman John Maitland.

“The commission finds that Mr Maitland and Mr Macdonald were “mates” and enjoyed a close and friendly professional relationship,” ICAC findings said.

ICAC is open to the NSW Crime Commission reclaiming tens of millions of dollars made by Maitland and others from the tenement.

“There was evidence before the commission of the financial benefits accrued by Mr Maitland, Mr Ransley and Mr Poole as a result of the corrupt conduct the Commission has found to have been engaged in by Mr Macdonald,” it said.

“The commission has provided relevant information to the NSW Crime Commission pursuant to s 16(3) of the ICAC Act for such action as the NSW Crime Commission considers appropriate.”

According to ICAC, Ransley roped Maitland in due to his strong association with Macdonald, which was formed when Maitland was head of the CFMEU.

“The report notes that Mr Macdonald and Mr Maitland, a former leader of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) Mining and Energy Division, had a close and friendly professional relationship that arose through their membership of the ALP.

“The commission finds that Mr Macdonald granted the EL to DCM to benefit Mr Maitland, a man with whom he had a close professional relationship, to whom he was closely politically aligned, to whom he was indebted for political support, and who was a ‘mate’.”

Ransley said he would seek judicial review of the findings from the Supreme Court.

“I reject the findings made against me by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in its report published today in relation to Operation Acacia,” he said in a statement.

“I have not committed any crimes, and the commission has made no such findings against me. My conscience is clear and I believe I acted appropriately and at all times in the interests of advancing skills and training in the mining industry,” Ransley said.

ICAC previously found Macdonald acted corruptly when he reopened the expressions of interest (EOI) process for mining exploration licenses to back mining magnate Travers Duncan.

Duncan was given confidential information: the “Proposed NSW Coal Allocations” document. The EOI process was reopened so Cascade Coal could partake. Duncan has an interest in the company.

But Duncan launched action in the NSW Supreme Court to stop ICAC investigations.

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