By Mehroz Siraj
NSW Premier Barry O’ Farrell has said that developing a future course of legal action in accordance with the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) reports on the state’s mining industry corruption investigation will require time and additional resources.
While addressing the NSW parliament on August 1, the premier announced that the state government would allocate an extra $5million to state’s Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
These new funds would be utilized for maintaining the ICAC prosecution unit within the DPP, O’ Farrell said.
It would be this prosecution unit that would be studying the ICAC recommendation report in detail, O’ Farrell informed.
The DPP would then present the state government with possible charges that could be laid against those former NSW Labor Party ministers and power brokers who were indicted in the wide ranging ICAC investigations.
Former NSW Labor’s power brokers, Ian McDonald and Eddie Obeid had been involved in corrupt deals on many coal and uranium mines in New South Wales, the ICAC investigations revealed.
The profits from these deals that were done between McDonald, Obeid and a number of wealthy NSW businessmen, were of an estimated value of over $400million.
On August 1, ABC Radio reported that the ICAC, NSW DPP and the Australian Taxation Office were already working in collaboration to address the important issue of retrieving the state’s stolen wealth from McDonald, Obeid and their business partners.
According to insiders who observed the recently concluded ICAC hearings, the committee’s recommendation report and its sessions so far were only the tip of the iceberg.
In-depth investigations into the employment of corrupt practices in allocating coal mining contracts in NSW could span months, it is believed.
“Given the findings of the report, it’s more than likely that it is a long way from over from my perspective as a witness,” Investment Banker Gardner Brook told ABC Radio.
Before the corrupt deeds of McDonald and Obeid became public, Brook worked closely with them and he was also a member of their teams that finalized the financial agreements with wealthy NSW businessmen, the ICAC’s tribunal was told earlier this year.
However, Brook maintained that the Obeids had always been people of an opaque personality and that he had no clue that he was being used by them to further their own corrupt business interests.
The NSW ALP and its top leadership has come under renewed attacks since the final report of the ICAC tribunal was made public last month.
Brook said that the case had tarnished the reputations of all the technocrats who worked with McDonald and the Obeids during their days as ministers under the former state Labor governments.
The current leadership of the NSW ALP had sought to maintain an overt distance from Obeid and McDonald throughout the course of the ICAC’s investigations.
These actions have not been bought by Premier O’ Farrell.
The premier strongly attacked the Opposition Leader John Robertson last week in parliament.
“Of course John Robertson owes to Eddie Obeid, not just his entry into parliament, not just his entry into the ministry, but also his leadership of the NSW Labor party,” O’ Farrell remarked, recalling that Robertson did have a strong connection with Obeid in the past.
O’ Farrell further recalled that Robertson, along with Obeid and McDonald were members of the same NSW cabinet and that there was no evidence that Robertson showed any resistance against the corrupt practices of Obeid and McDonald in those days.