Tuesday, 11 December 2012 13:57
The former managing director of a mining company has denied that pressure was put on the New South Wales Government to reopen a tender process for coal exploration licences.
John Atkinson, a former managing director of White Energy, is giving evidence at an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry into whether former Labor minister Ian Macdonald in 2008 rigged a tender process for a coal exploration licence in the Bylong Valley.
The ICAC is probing how another former Labor minister Eddie Obeid may have gained from it.
The inquiry has been told that White Energy agreed to pay $500 million for Cascade Coal, an entity linked to the Obeids, in a deal related to a mining exploration licence in the Bylong Valley but the deal fell through.
On Tuesday, Mr Atkinson denied suggestions from commissioner David Ipp that White Energy sent letters on different letterheads to the NSW Department of Primary Industries in 2008 to pressure it to reopen the tender process.
"The only possible explanation for White Energy and Amerod sending the letters is that somebody wished to create the illusion there was more than one company out to exploit coal in particular areas subject to the letter," Commissioner David Ipp suggested.
"Was this part of White Energy's plans to use its subsidiaries and other companies in which its major shareholders had an interest to write letters to the department to create this illusion," he asked.
"Not that I was aware," Mr Atkinson said.
Mr Atkinson said it was "theoretically possible" that the letters were directed by members of a syndicate connected to White Energy, including by John McGuigan or Travers Duncan.
Mr Atkinson, who was also an investor in Cascade, said it was definitely on his agenda in early 2010 to sell Cascade to White Energy.
The inquiry has previously been told the Obeids had a $60 million deal with Cascade, which had been granted a coal exploration licence in the Bylong Valley by Mr Macdonald's department.
Mr Atkinson agreed with suggestions from counsel assisting the commissioner, Geoffrey Watson, that if other investors in Cascade did not tell him of the Obeid involvement he would have regarded it as a serious breach of trust.
Mr Atkinson denied he had a source in government who gave him inside information about the opening of the area to coal mining.
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