Obeid blood thicker than water: ICAC investigations dig into the family’s finances

The old adage ‘blood is thicker than water’ today has been both reinforced and heavily questioned as it is revealed the tight-knit Obeid clan holds a secret $3.4 million stake in Australian Water Holdings.

The water company in question has also secured an exclusive 25-year agreement with the NSW state government.

In December the company’s head Nick Di Girolamo, who is said to be a close associate of the Obeid family, denied that the Obeids had any involvement, the SMH reported.

On Wednesday, financial documents revealing the family’s involvement were tendered to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which is currently investigating allegations that former NSW mining minister, Ian Macdonald, provided inside information to the Obeids about coal exploration licences in the Bylong Valley.

The intricacies of the corruption watchdog’s Operation Jasper have continued to unfold this week with the Obeid family finances attracting close scrutiny.

Documents tendered to ICAC yesterday revealed a series of family companies and trusts which have provided “loans” to various family members; loans don’t attract tax.

For instance, in May 2010 Labor power broker Eddie Obeid was ''loaned'' $220,000 for the purchase of a unit in Port Macquarie.

ICAC also heard yesterday that Obeid used some of the $15 million in profits from his family's sale of shares in allegedly corruptly awarded mining tenements in the Bylong Valley  to purchase a $400,000 Mercedes-Benz, while his wife, made a deposit on an $8.5 million waterfront mansion in Woolwich, the sale of the house was not completed. 

The commission also heard that a company controlled by Obeid's son-in-law Hassam Achie, was used to receive a sum of $15 million allegedly received for the sale of the family’s interests in companies, including one at Mount Penny, which was awarded suspect coal tenders by the then resources minister Ian Macdonald.

''Did you know that Eddie Obeid snr bought a brand spanking new Mercedes, do you remember that, a $400,000 Mercedes?''  Achie was yesterday asked by counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson, SC.

“Did you know that the money came out of the money from the sale of shares in Mount Penny, did you know that?''

Achie replied, ''I know some moneys were put towards the car, yes.''

Achie also agreed that the $18 million which flowed through the Obeid Family Trust No.1 was given to Mr Obeid, his wife and nine children as loans rather than distributions because no tax is payable on loans.

A summary of the accounts operated by the Obeid Family Trust No. 1 also revealed the $3.4 million investment in Australian Water.

Under ''non-current assets'', the trust has listed a $3.4 million loan to ''Aust Water''.

SMH reported that in December Di Girolamo said he had met Eddie Obeid on a number of occasions to discuss the water company, he also confirmed he had received a personal loan from Eddie Obeid’s son, Eddie jnr for an undisclosed amount.

Since the mid 1990s Sydney Water has given Australian Water Holdings a number of sewerage supply and water infrastructure contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Australian Water Holdings has also attempted to convince the former Labor government to sell it Sydney Water’s work in the north-west region of the NSW capital.

A deal estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

And it doesn’t stop there,  SMH revealed that in January last year Sydney Water issued a 25-year exclusive contract to Australian Water which gives it the sole right to project manage the remaining half-a-billion dollars of water infrastructure work in the north-west region.

There was no tender process.

ICAC’s investigation into allegations of corruptly awarded exploration licences in the Bylong Valley continue today.

Currently Stuart Andrews, a farmer from the Bylong community is giving evidence.

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