'Brace yourselves': scope widened in corruption probe

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is widening the scope of its explosive investigation into a series of Hunter Valley coal leases issued by the disgraced former resources minister Ian Macdonald.

"Brace yourselves," Geoffrey Watson, SC, counsel assisting, has warned the ICAC hearing of his formal opening and the explanation of the corruption it is about to expose: "This could take most of the day."

The Commissioner, David Ipp, QC, earlier gave notice to the widening, which means the inquiry will now also examine how it was that the Obeid family and its associates purchased a series of farms in 2007 and 2008 which were in the vicinity of a key coal licence area.

Mr Watson has begun outlining the complex and extensive corrupt network that allegedly disguised its operations to secure profits worth "hundreds of millions of dollars". Its principals are allegedly ALP kingpin Eddie Obeid and the disgraced former resources minister, Ian Macdonald.

Mr Watson told the inquiry this morning that just one of a number of coal deals being examined by the ICAC, dating from 2008 and 2009, was designed to secure $60 million profit for the Obeid family, which had invested just $200,000.

"In all, decisions taken or influenced by Ian Macdonald may have enabled Eddie Obeid and his family to acquire profits in the order of $100 million," Mr Watson said.

Labor kingpin ... Eddie Obeid. Photo: Peter Rae

Mr Ipp said the inquiry would also examine whether Mr Macdonald or his staff "provided confidential information ... to members of the Obeid family", and whether they then used that information to their own benefit.


Former minister ... Ian Macdonald. Photo: James Brickwood

Former minister ... Ian Macdonald. Photo: James Brickwood

Labor kingpin ... Eddie Obeid. Photo: Peter Rae

Labor kingpin ... Eddie Obeid. Photo: Peter Rae