Obeid returns to front ICAC

Former Labor minister Eddie Obeid today fronted the Independent Commission Against Corruption's inquiry to give further evidence about mining exploration licences granted in 2008 by former mining minister Ian Macdonald.

The inquiry’s Operation Jasper is currently investigating whether Obeid influenced Macdonald’s decision to grant coal exploration licences in the NSW Bylong Valley, and whether the tender process was rigged.

Obeid took to the witness box to today deny claims made by Alan Fang, the founder of the Tianda Group, who said the two toured the Obeid family property at Mount Penny and discussed a coal deal with his sons.

Fang, a Chinese businessman, previously told the ICAC he attended Obeid's parliamentary office with Macdonald in 2008 to discuss a potential purchase of the family’s farm, before the government had sold the coal tenement beneath it, SMH reported.

Obeid’s son Moses has previously admitted to the ICAC that the family stood to benefit up to $75 million from the deal.

The ICAC has heard the Obeid family used a series of fronts to secretly negotiate a stake in the company that was awarded the Mount Penny licence.

Geoffrey Watson, SC, counsel assisting the inquiry, has alleged that Obeid and Macdonald engaged in a "criminal conspiracy" to corrupt the tender.

In March, the ICAC heard that Fang toured Cherrydale Park, the Obeid family farm, with Obeid's sons and Fang’s name has appeared in notes taken by the Obeids' solicitor in which the family discussed how best to profit from the coal in the region.

At the time Fang said the tour came after his personal introduction to Eddie Obeid snr, claims Obeid today rejected.

"I deny I have met him at my office at Macquarie Street," he said.

Obeid said he had no memory of meeting Fang and has no idea how his sons came to meet him.

Commissioner David Ipp asked Obeid to explain why Fang had said he had met Obeid in his office to discuss coal on his farm, Obeid said he could not.

Watson also asked him why Fang would pay four times the market value for the farm situated on the tenement, if it wasn’t for its mining potential, Obeid replied: "Ask him that question. I didn’t know what he did."

The inquiry continues.

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