The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found former NSW Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi acted corruptly over retail leases at Sydney’s Circular Quay.
As part of a long-running inquiry, ICAC investigated allegations that Mr Obeid lobbied to have the leases at Circular Quay renewed without a competitive tender. It also investigated if his family had a secret financial stake in the leases.
In a report released today, ICAC found Mr Obeid “misused his position as an MP” to make representations to ministers and to former senior public servant Steve Dunn on various occasions in relation to the retail leases.
Mr Obeid has also been found corrupt for misusing his position as an MP to benefit his family’s financial interests in Direct Health Solutions and generous water licences over their Bylong Valley farm.
It has recommended the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) consider charging Mr Obeid with misconduct in public office.
ICAC also found Mr Dunn, the former chief executive of NSW Maritime, acted corruptly over the leases, though it has not recommended charges be laid against him or Mr Tripodi.
During the inquiry in October 2013 dramatic vision was shown of ICAC officers finding cash totalling over $31,000 during a raid on Mr Obeid’s offices at Birkenhead Point.
The inquiry heard Mr Obeid had a secret stake in cafes and restaurants in the area through a front man – his brother-in-law – and failed to disclose the stake when he lobbied other Labor ministers not to put the leases to a competitive tender when they expired in 2005.
After the report was handed down, Mr Obeid said he was innocent of the allegations.
“I have had a political witch-hunt against myself and my family for the last three years,” he told the ABC.
“The way ICAC runs its inquiries, I do not take them with a grain of salt. I believe in our judicial system and when that goes before a court and a judge where we can provide evidence equivalent to ICAC and the DPP, if they want to take it up, I will then take it seriously.”
He said ICAC liked to be a “spectacle”.
“It is all media spectacle. It is all Hollywood-style. It is all about grabbing media headlines. It likes to prove it is worth the money the Government spends on it.
“I am a believer in anti-corruption bodies but they’ve got to run it seriously and not defame people and not grill people when they don’t have any real evidence.”
Meanwhile, the Labor Party says it will expel Mr Tripodi from its ranks.
State secretary Jamie Clements says Mr Tripodi’s membership had been suspended while the ICAC conducted its inquiry.
He says the Administrative Committee will now act to end the relationship formally tomorrow.
Mr Obeid was expelled from the Labor Party last year.
Tripodi admitted knowledge of Obeid ‘interest’ in leases
In November, in a reversal of previous evidence to ICAC, Mr Tripodi admitted he knew Mr Obeid “had an interest” in the cafe leases.
He also admitted he did tell former staff member Lynn Ashpole he knew Mr Obeid had an interest in the leases before they were renewed.
“To the best of my recollection, I told Ms Ashpole ‘Eddie Obeid has an interest in the leases at Circular Quay, he will not be happy when they go to EOI’,” he said.
ICAC also heard last year that Mr Obeid screamed and shouted when his colleague Carl Scully, the former ports minister, refused to renew the retail lease.
Mr Scully said he was gobsmacked and astonished when Mr Obeid approached him to extend the lease, which was on government-owned land.
The lease was for Mr Obeid’s associate Tony Imad.
Mr Scully told the hearing that, when he told Mr Obeid he thought that Mr Imad was a crook, Mr Obeid screamed and became angry.
Mr Scully said Mr Obeid did not disclose that his family had business interests at Circular Quay and that was not how an MP should behave.