Obeids, Macdonald jailed over conspiracy

Ex-NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid has another night of freedom after being jailed over a conspiracy.
Ex-NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid has another night of freedom after being jailed over a conspiracy.

Former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid will have another night of freedom despite being jailed for at least three years and 10 months over a rigged tender for a coal exploration licence.

His former ministerial colleague Ian Macdonald was jailed for at least five years and three months, while his son Moses Obeid was jailed for at least three years.

But late on Thursday, Justice Elizabeth Fullerton allowed Obeid, who's at risk of dying if he catches COVID-19, to be released to his Sydney home overnight before the 77-year-old applies for bail on Friday pending a conviction appeal.

However, his 52-year-old son and 72-year-old Macdonald were taken into custody after she sentenced them in the NSW Supreme Court.

She found them guilty in July of conspiring for Macdonald to engage in misconduct as a minister between 2007 and 2009.

The then resources minister was found to have breached his duties by providing confidential information to the Obeids over a coal exploration licence which delivered a $30 million windfall to their family.

In jailing the trio, Justice Fullerton found the objective seriousness of the conspiracy "was one of the highest order".

She said father and son were aware of Macdonald's actions in establishing and granting the licence over the Obeids' family property at Mount Penny, in the Bylong Valley near Mudgee, for the family's financial benefit.

"Edward Obeid and Moses Obeid were patently motivated by a desire to maximise the financial benefit to them and their family in exploiting the value of the coal underlying Cherrydale Park," she said.

But no financial or other benefit has been shown to have accrued to Macdonald for his agreement to wilfully breach his ministerial duties and obligations.

"The fact that no evidence of motive is discernible does not mitigate the extreme gravity of his criminal culpability as a co-conspirator," she said.

"It is obvious beyond doubt that without Mr Macdonald's agreement that he would wilfully misconduct himself as the Minister for Mineral Resources there would have been no conspiracy."

She assessed Macdonald's criminality as high, due to his having been a minister of the Crown who breached his duties of confidentiality and/or impartiality.

Moses Obeid's criminality was less than his father's, due to his having also been a minister of the Crown.

Unlike his co-offenders, Moses Obeid did not occupy any public office at the time of the agreement, nor did he breach the public trust.

Macdonald was handed a maximum jail term of nine years and six months, Moses Obeid five years and his father seven years.

He has previously served a three-year jail term over a misconduct offence related to Circular Quay leases linked to his family's business while Obeid was a NSW minister.

After imposing the sentences, Justice Fullerton was told the men would be transferred to Surry Hills Police Station cells for about 24 hours, before being taken to a jail where COVID-19 protocols including quarantine were in place.

Noting medical evidence that Eddie Obeid "risks death" if he contracted the disease, she agreed he could be released to his home overnight pending a bail application on Friday.

His lawyers have filed a notice of intention to appeal his conviction.

While his son and Macdonald also plan on appealing, Justice Fullerton said another judge would have to hear any proposed bail application by them.

This was because, unlike Eddie Obeid, their appeals include a ground submitting her guilty verdict was "unreasonable".

Australian Associated Press