Obeid family assets being watched PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 February 2013 13:47

The NSW Crime Commission, which has the power to freeze proceeds of crime, is keeping a close eye on the Obeid saga unfolding before the ICAC, Premier Barry O'Farrell says.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating claims former NSW mines minister Ian Macdonald rigged a 2008 tender process for coal exploration licences to favour Labor kingmaker Eddie Obeid.

The inquiry has heard the Obeid family stood to benefit by at least $75 million from decisions taken by Mr Macdonald.

This morning Greens MP John Kaye called on Mr O'Farrell to request a freeze order from the crime commission, which has the power to seize assets and can compel witnesses to give evidence.

Just hours later, Mr O'Farrell told reporters the crime commission was monitoring the ICAC proceedings and was in "close contact" with the ICAC itself.

But he said he wouldn't be personally contacting the crime commission about the matter.

"I don't intend to interfere with the NSW Crime Commission's operations any more than I intend to interfere with the operations and the hearings of ICAC," the premier said.

He added that there were no powers available to government to suspend a mining exploration licence.

Any other action would have to wait until the conclusion of the ICAC hearings, he said.

Mr O'Farrell comments follow Eddie Obeid's confession that he listed his MP's salary as his only source of income for 10 years in the NSW parliamentary assets register.

The former NSW Labor factional boss told a corruption inquiry he did not believe he had to declare benefits he received in the form of household bills paid by his wife Judith from a family trust loan account, which she owed $1.7 million.

Asked at an ICAC inquiry what he did to declare that benefit, he replied: "I don't believe that's necessary. It's not an expense required to be put down."

Mr Obeid also said he had never received any benefit from the family trust he set up 39 years ago.

Counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson SC, said Mr Obeid's wife had drawn $237,000 on her loan account in one year, but Mr Obeid did not know if she had any income to repay it, or whether she paid any tax.

When Commissioner David Ipp asked him: "Are you really saying you have no idea whether your wife pays tax or not?" Mr Obeid replied: "Yes, Commissioner."

Presented with evidence showing 399 mobile phone calls between Mr Obeid and Mr Macdonald in 2008, Mr Obeid said Mr Macdonald was a very important political ally during a year in which "all hell broke loose" in NSW Labor, with party in-fighting over electricity privatisation and a change of premiers.

Despite Mr Obeid being a right wing factional boss and Mr Macdonald coming from the left wing, Mr Obeid said: "We still have to talk to each other and coordinate things."

Mr Obeid's second day in the witness box was marked by further heated exchanges.

Mr Watson at one point told him: "I'm sorry to get the day off to a bad start, but you just do not intend telling us the truth, do you?"

At another stage he said Mr Obeid was trying to be insolent.

Frustrated by Mr Obeid's failure to directly answer questions, Mr Ipp said: "We will stay here for as long as it takes to get answers from you. I do not mind if it takes several days of listening to Mr Obeid make speeches."

The hearing continues.

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