A defiant Eddie Obeid has declared his innocence in “every instance” as the corrupt former NSW Labor powerbroker finally faces prosecution.
Obeid will face court in December on an offence of misconduct in public office, for corruptly lobbying public servants to extend leases for family-owned businesses in Sydney’s Circular Quay.
The former minister has been the subject of eight corruption probes and found corrupt by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on a number of occasions.
He still maintains he has done nothing wrong.
“Innocent in every instance,” he told reporters outside his mansion in Sydney’s Hunters Hill.
“Those inquiries were nothing but sham inquiries that wanted to make ICAC look good.”
He said the ICAC had “a lot to answer”.
“We have our complaints and we’ll see how they handle that,” he said.
Obeid, who in June boasted he faced only a “one per cent” chance of being prosecuted, was on Thursday served with a court attendance notice in relation to ICAC’s Operation Cyrus.
He is being prosecuted for influencing the Maritime Authority of NSW to deal favourably with Circular Quay Restaurants Pty Ltd, a company his family owned, regarding the company’s restaurant tenancies, an ICAC release said.
The corruption watchdog found Obeid misused his position as an upper house MP to make representations to Labor colleagues on the leases.
Thursday’s announcement came hours after the ICAC said Obeid’s former ministerial ally and fellow ex-Labor MP Ian Macdonald was also being prosecuted for misconduct in public office over his handling of a lucrative mining licence at Doyles Creek in the Hunter Valley.
The man dubbed “Sir Lunchalot” was the first major political player to face prosecution after a series of corruption inquiries into the issuing of mining licences.
Obeid has also been implicated in those inquiries but is yet to face charges over those matters.
Liberal NSW Premier Mike Baird said he was pleased to see the ICAC doing its work.
“About time,” he said.
“If someone does the wrong thing, if they abuse public office, if they act in their own interests, if they undertake corrupt activity, well, there are consequences.”
Opposition Leader John Robertson, who successfully led a push to expel Obeid and Macdonald from the Labor Party, said the pair deserve to face criminal charges.
“They have betrayed the people of NSW with their disgraceful behaviour,” he said.
Thursday’s news follows ICAC’s Operation Acacia which heard Macdonald defied his own department’s advice by granting a NSW Hunter Valley coal exploration licence to former union boss John Maitland in 2008.
Maitland said he had wanted to set up a training mine to address skills shortages but ICAC found he made $15 million out of his activities at Doyles Creek, from a $165,000 investment.
ICAC found Maitland had helped Macdonald two years earlier when the MP was in danger of losing his parliamentary preselection.
Macdonald was found to be corrupt by the ICAC in August last year over his handling of the licence, and Maitland allegedly received a financial windfall when the licence was sold to NuCoal in 2010.
Maitland is being prosecuted for two counts of being an accessory before the fact to misconduct in public office in relation to aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring the commission of the two offences by Macdonald.
Maitland, Obeid and Macdonald are all due to face court on December 18.