The Independent Commission Against Corruption’s star witness Ian Macdonald appeared at the corruption inquiry yesterday, as decisions made whilst he was the NSW mining minister come under scrutiny.
ICAC is currently investigating allegations that Macdonald conspired to enrich both himself and his former colleague Eddie Obeid by issuing mining licences over the Obeid family estate in the NSW Bylong Valley.
The inquiry has heard the Obeid’s stood to make somewhere between $75 million and $175 million from the deal, SMH reported.
Appearing just before 3pm on Monday, Macdonald took ''a section 38'', which means that his evidence is given under objection and can't be used against him in other proceedings, unless he is found to be lying.
Macdonald began explaining that he ordered his department to create the ''Mount Penny tenement'' after he consulted a government-issued atlas, which he is no longer in possession of.
To which counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson, SC, said ''I'm suggesting you're a liar and that you're making this up!''
In past hearings senior geologists have told the ICAC that they had never heard of Mount Penny, which it just so happens is a large hill located on the Obeid family farm.
Macdonald claimed it was merely a coincidence that in May 2008, the day after he and Eddie Obeid discussed the farm, Macdonald asked his department about coal reserves around Mount Penny.
He also had trouble explaining why the new tenement sat ''smack bang over the top of the Obeid family farm''.
Watson said that he would take Macdonald through 40 particular times and events … ''at the end of it I'm going to show to you that you did this deliberately, you created this tenement with it in mind to profit your friends the Obeids''.
''I don't accept that,'' replied Macdonald.
By the end of the day the commission had covered just four of the 40 events.
The ICAC inquiry is being dubbed the best show in town and has been so popular staff yesterday had to issue tickets for the 42 seats in the public gallery.
''Don't worry, I will have a lot to say,'' Macdonald said as he arrived to give evidence.
It has been alleged Macdonald stood to receive $4 million for his role in issuing the government coal licence tender to benefit the Obeid family.