ICAC told of $100m deal

THE son of former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid told a neighbour his family stood to make $100million from buying a rural property opened up to mining by former NSW resources minister Ian Macdonald, a corruption inquiry has heard.

The revelation came on the second day of Independent Commission Against Corruption Inquiry (ICAC) hearings into Mr Macdonald’s 2008 decision to open the Bylong Valley in central NSW to coalmining, and how it benefited Mr Obeid.

Mr Macdonald is accused of doing the bidding of the Obeid family, who hid their involvement through complex trust and company structures.

On another sensational day, a former neighbour and friend of the Obeid family, Nicole Fitzhenry, said Eddie Obeid’s son Moses told her his family stood to make $100million from buying the property known as Cherrydale.

She said the conversation was one of many that occurred with Moses at her home in Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay in the months after the property was purchased in late 2007.

‘‘[Moses] said everything was going ahead and it was going to be a huge windfall for the family,’’ Ms Fitzhenry told the inquiry.

‘‘He said basically that they were going to make $100million.

‘‘He said that it was something to do with coal, leases on the farm, and that they would be making a lot of money.’’

Mr Macdonald had also been mentioned in the conversations about the Cherrydale Park property.

‘‘Basically it was just, ‘Ian’s going to help Dad out’,’’ she said.

Moses had advised her to buy a property next to Cherrydale because ‘‘we’d make a lot of money ... from the mining’’, Ms Fitzhenry told the inquiry.

In one of the day’s more bizarre moments, Ms Fitzhenry said she came home on one occasion to find four men, including Eddie Obeid, Moses Obeid and an unnamed NSW minister having a meeting in her kitchen.

‘‘There were two reasons. One, because it was noisy ... and two, they preferred to do it somewhere where people weren’t used to seeing them,’’ she said.

In his evidence, Ms Fitzhenry’s husband Peter said Moses Obeid told him that buying Cherrydale ‘‘would be a life-changing experience’’.

Earlier, former NSW Labor minister Frank Sartor said Eddie Obeid had suggested he could help him out financially.

‘‘He said, ‘What do you want to retire on?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, it’d be nice to retire on a million dollars’. He said, ‘I could help you with that’,’’ Mr Sartor said.

‘‘That made me feel very uneasy.’’

Former premier Morris Iemma told the hearing it was ‘‘unusual’’ that Mr Macdonald had limited the tender process to smaller miners.

The decision, relating to coal resources worth hundreds of millions of dollars, should have been raised with cabinet, something Mr Macdonald failed to do, Mr Iemma said. AAP 

EVIDENCE: Former NSW Labor Minister Frank Sartor leaves the ICAC.

EVIDENCE: Former NSW Labor Minister Frank Sartor leaves the ICAC.