Former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid has been found guilty of misconduct in public office by the NSW Supreme Court.
Obeid, 72, wilfully committed misconduct in public office by lobbying a senior maritime official over cafe leases at Sydney’s Circular Quay when he was a member of the NSW Upper House in 2007, the court ruled on Tuesday.
He failed to disclose that he and his family had a financial interest in the cafes and were receiving 90 per cent of the profits from the businesses, the court found.
“It is a good day for criminal justice, it is a good day for the taxpayer,” former NSW Labor premier Kristina Keneally told Sky News on Tuesday.
The case against Obeid was brought by the Crown based on evidence heard by the NSW corruption watchdog: the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Ms Keneally said the result vindicated ICAC — which has been much criticised by both sides of NSW state politics.
“It is a good day for ICAC, who have not had a lot of good days in recent times, but this is a day when they are vindicated [for] the work that they have done.”
Obeid’s conviction is the first significant criminal charge to arise out of ICAC’s recent hearings, Ms Keneally noted.
The official lobbied by Obeid, then-NSW Maritime Authority deputy chief executive Steve Dunn, was under the impression that the power broker was acting on behalf of constituents, the court heard.
The jury went out at 2.40pm on Monday, following a three-week trial, and returned its decision about 1.30pm on Tuesday.
Obeid declined to comment on the outcome when asked by reporters outside the court. He is yet to be sentenced for the offence. It is not known if he will appeal.
The case related to Cafe Sorentino and Quay Eatery, in which an Obeid family trust had a commercial interest. Obeid failed to declare that he was a beneficiary of that trust.
‘He Who Must Be Obeyed’
Fairfax Media journalist Kate McClymont, who reported on the cafe lease allegations in 2010, said Obeid “secretly ran the state of NSW”.
“He wasn’t called ‘He Who Must Be Obeyed’ for nothing. Although he was a backbencher, he secretly ran the state of NSW. He made and unmade premiers,” Ms McClymont told The Project on Tuesday night.
“There was almost nothing he didn’t control or try to control, whether it would be coal, water, cafe leases, mines. His reach and his business interests were astronomical.
Anyone who did try to stop him or stand in his way was basically driven out because Eddie controlled the numbers. He was a force to be reckoned with. And in some ways more people should have stood up to him, but most of the time they put their own political interests and their own political life in front of what they should have done. There’s no question that people knew what Eddie was up to.”
– with Jackson Stiles, ABC and AAP