t’s Judgment Day for Eddie Obeid as he learns whether he will be jailed over his secret business deals. The disgraced former Labor powerbroker will be handed his sentence today after being found guilty of misconduct in public office.
Makes no difference’
It makes no difference to Obeid’s criminality whether he was acting to advance his own financial interests or those of his family, Justice Beech-Jones said.
Now we’re getting down to it. Justice Beech-Jones is setting out the principles for sentencing Obeid.
In NSW the offence of misconduct in public office is not codified in an Act of Parliament – it is simply part of the common law (law made by judges).
That means the maximum penalty has not been set out in legislation and is technically “at large”, meaning life.
But in other states where the offence has been codified the maximum penalty is about seven years. This is relevant but the court is not “limited” by that, Justice Beech-Jones says.
He says there is “no difference in substance” to a politician receiving a bribe to advance someone else’s interest and using their position to line their own pockets.
Kate McClymont ✔@Kate_McClymont
Judge points out there is no maximum penalty for the common law offence of wilful misconduct in public office #Obeid @NSWSupCt
10:43 AM – 15 Dec 2016
‘Solely motivated’ by self interest
Justice Beech-Jones said he directed the jury that they could only find Obeid guilty of misconduct in public office if they were satisfied he was not acting “in any way” in the public interest.
They returned a guilty verdict and accordingly were convinced he was “solely motivated” to benefit a family company that held the cafe leases, “and through it himself and his family”.
Justice Beech-Jones said that, in light of Obeid’s experience in Parliament, it is “inconceivable he would not have known” he could not use his position for his own benefit.
Justice Beech-Jones says it is “overwhelmingly likely” Eddie Obeid was aware his family had a substantial financial interest in two Circular Quay cafes when lobbying for tenants on the wharves.
The jury rejected the evidence of Obeid’s son Damian that his father was not told about the running of the businesses.
Justice Beech-Jones notes the “exquisite timing” of Obeid’s phone call to maritime bureaucrat Steve Dunn, which suggested he had a very close knowledge of the running of the businesses.
The jury found Obeid did not reveal his family’s interest in the cafes when urging Dunn to speak to a commercial negotiator acting for tenants seeking a renewal of their leases without a competitive tender.
Crucial phone calls
Justice Beech-Jones notes a series of telephone calls between Eddie Obeid and Steve Dunn, his friend and a senior bureaucrat in the NSW Maritime Authority.
Obeid called Dunn in 2007 and asked him to speak to a commercial negotiator acting for a group of leaseholders at Circular Quay. Justice Beech-Jones says that “at no time” did Obeid tell Dunn the negotiator was also acting for the Obeid family.
“The way in which Mr Obeid would make sure he got his point across was to speak in quite colourful language. He would often swear. I do recall the language being strong,” Dunn said during the trial.
“At the end of the conversation, I was left in no doubt that Mr Obeid would like me to make contact with [the negotiator] and to meet with him.”
Envelopes of cash
Justice Beech-Jones is working methodically through the evidence presented to the jury.
He notes that Eddie Obeid’s eldest son Damian insisted his father was not told anything about the day-to-day running of the families’ businesses at Circular Quay.
But the court heard evidence that envelopes of cash marked “Dad” were given to the Obeid family patriarch.
It is on
Justice Beech-Jones is on the bench and delivering his decision.
He notes the sentencing has been delayed because of Obeid’s ill health.
9:56am on 15 Dec 2016
We are in for a long morning. Obeid, dressed in a navy suit and blue tie, is in the dock in court five in the historic Darlinghurst Supreme Court.
Justice Robert Beech-Jones’ sentencing decision is expected to take two hours. Stay with us.
9:47am on 15 Dec 2016
One we prepared earlier
“I like Mercedes. Is there anything wrong with that?” Eddie Obeid once piped up in one of his many appearances at the ICAC.
But this morning he was driven from his Hunters Hill mansion, Passy, in a white Range Rover.
Herald photographer Kate Geraghty was on the scene.