The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is set to prosecute former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid for alleged misconduct and corruption while in public office. This will be the first in a series of charges expected from the ICAC to be laid against Labor figures as a result of recent investigations. Mr Obeid faces prosecution for allegedly corruptly lobbying his former colleagues to gain lucrative concessions for café leases in Circular Quay that were secretly owned by his family.
In a report released earlier this year, the ICAC revealed that Mr Obeid, his former factional ally, Joe Tripodi, and former NSW Maritime chief executive Steve Dunn had participated in an act of corruption with regards to the café leases. Mr Obeid received a court attendance notice regarding his matter on the 20 November 2014. He reportedly announced that "I have no concern whatsoever that, in a court of law, we'll be able to fight the evidence, and I'm very confident" and accused the watchdog of sham inquiries designed for their own benefits.
The court attendance notice alleged that between the period of 1 August 2007 and 30 November 2007, Mr Obeid wilfully misconducted himself by inducing Stephen Paul Dunn to deal favourably with Circular Quay Restaurants Pty Ltd. On paper, this company was run by Mr Obeid’s brother-in-law, Mr John Abood. However, a Fairfax Media investigation revealed that the Obeid family had hid their interest via a trust and were in actual fact the beneficial owner of the company.
The ICAC investigation revealed that within weeks of becoming deputy head of NSW Martime, Mr Dunn had stopped the café leases going to public tender; a decision which the Obeid family had sought for a decade. During this crucial fortnight, text messages and phone calls revealed that Mr Dunn was talking frequently to Mr Obeid, as well as to the relevant minister, Joe Tripodi.
Despite appealing the court attendance notices in both the Federal Court in the case of Obeid v Australian Competition and Consumer Commission  FCA 839 and in the Full Federal Court on 20 November 2014 in the case of Obeid v ACCC  FCAFC 155, the service has been deemed to be defined in the Act and the case will proceed.
NSW Premier Mike Baird says that the prosecution should come as a great comfort to the people of NSW. It illustrates that the legal system will not take corruption lightly and that there are consequences for such misconduct in a public office.
NSW Opposition leader John Robertson supports the government’s actions against his former colleagues saying that it will be a significant day for the people of NSW to see these corrupt individuals face the full force of the law.
There is no maximum sentence prescribed in NSW laws from the crime of misconduct in public office. Mr Obeid is scheduled to appear before the Downing Centre Local Court for mention on the 18 December.
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