Disgraced ex-ministers Ian Macdonald and Eddie Obeid have been sentenced to prison for plotting to rig a lucrative mining tender.
The two former NSW Labor MLCs and Obeid’s son, Moses, were convicted earlier this year of conspiring to commit misconduct in public office over a 2009 mining exploration licence that led to a $30m windfall for the Obeids.
On Thursday, their fate was revealed by Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Fullerton, who sentenced Macdonald to nine and a half years in prison with a non-parole period of five years and three months.
Eddie Obeid received a sentence of seven years with a non-parole period of three years and 10 months, and Moses Obeid to five and three years respectively.
The judge described the seriousness of their offending as in “the highest order”, partly because the men were so clearly aware of the duties of holding public office at the time they had plotted to exploit it.
Camera IconIan MacDonald was sentenced to 9.5 years behind bars. NCA NewsWire / Dylan Coker Credit: News Corp Australia
The agreement struck between the three men related to the 2009 granting of a coal exploration licence encompassing a large property owned by the Obeids at Mount Penny in the Bylong Valley, NSW.
The men conspired for Macdonald to “do what he could, where the opportunity presented” to further the Obeids’ financial interests in connection with the mining licence.
Justice Fullerton said she was satisfied the Mount Penny area was designated for new coal release at Macdonald’s “strong suggestion”, made in full knowledge the Obeids owned property there.
She found he committed five acts of public misconduct in carrying out the conspiracy, including asking his department for information related to the licence and giving information to the Obeids.
The scheme ultimately generated $60m, half of which was pocketed by the Obeids after they sold their interest in a joint venture Moses Obeid negotiated with Cascade Coal, the company that won the closed licence tender.
Criminal charges were brought against the three men following an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
It was “clear beyond question”, Justice Fullerton said, that the Obeids were motivated by money.
Camera IconMoses Obeid will spend at least three years behind bars. Jane Dempster/The Australian. Credit: News Corp Australia
But she was not able to land on a motive for Macdonald beyond reasonable doubt, saying his possible reasons for engaging in the crime may have been “repaying a debt of gratitude” for the elder Obeid’s political support, or the hope his financial pressures might be alleviated by a future benefit.
The uncertainty on Macdonald’s motive did not “mitigate the extreme gravity” of his culpability, Justice Fullerton said, because if Macdonald had not used his ministerial role “there would have been no conspiracy at all”.
Justice Fullerton said she had seen no evidence the men accepted responsibility for their actions or acknowledged the damage they had wrought upon public trust.
Despite this, she found Moses Obeid was unlikely to reoffend.
As for the two disgraced former ministers, she said, “I am satisfied they are unlikely to have the opportunity to criminally misconduct themselves in the future”
The trio were permitted to remain on bail after their conviction in July.
Eddie Obeid will be eligible for parole in August 2025, Macdonald in January 2027 and Moses Obeid in October 2024.Internet Explorer Channel Network