Obeids and Macdonald to stay on bail

Eddie Obeid will remain on bail until a sentence hearing for conspiracy with a fellow ex-minister.
Eddie Obeid will remain on bail until a sentence hearing for conspiracy with a fellow ex-minister.

Former NSW Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid, his son Moses, and his once-ministerial colleague Ian Macdonald will remain on bail until their sentence hearing for conspiracy convictions.

Citing the current COVID-19 travel restrictions, Justice Elizabeth Fullerton rejected a crown concern about an "unacceptable risk" of them failing to appear at the September 8 hearing.

The "theoretical risk" of them fleeing NSW or Australia could be addressed by conditions ordering them to effectively remain under house arrest, she said in the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday.

Obeid, 77, his 52-year-old son, and 72-year-old fellow former minister were found guilty on Monday of conspiring for Macdonald to engage in misconduct as a minister between 2007 and 2009.

It related to the then mining minister's actions in establishing and granting a coal exploration licence over the Obeids' family property at Mount Penny, in the Bylong Valley near Mudgee, for the family's financial benefit.

The misconduct led to a $30 million windfall for the Obeid family.

Justice Fullerton, who conducted their marathon trial without a jury, said the men had been on bail since their arrest in 2015.

Since that time, their conditions had progressively been relaxed and none had been breached.

"The Crown relies on a single bail concern, being a risk that each of the offenders will not appear on 8 September when their matters are listed for sentencing," the judge said.

She said she proceeded on the basis that a sentence of imprisonment will be imposed on each of the offenders.

In assessing the risk of them not appearing, she noted the current restrictions on interstate travel and the likelihood they will remain in place until September 8.

She also took into account the restrictions on international travel, noting none of the offenders fell into the exceptions category.

Moses Obeid's passport had expired and there was no evidence to support a suggested heightened risk of father and son leaving Australia due to overseas property holdings.

While the prosecutor accepted it would be difficult for the men to leave the country legally, she referred to the possibility of illegal travel.

This "theoretical" risk could be addressed by conditions that included the men continuing to reside at their current bail address and only leave for pre-arranged medical or lawyer appointments, the judge said.

Eddie Obeid's required residence is in Hunters Hill, his son's in Paddington and Macdonald's at Leura.

Other conditions include reporting to police by phone three times a week and not applying for a passport or leaving NSW.

They are to attend the sentence hearing, expected to go for two days, either in person or via audio-visual link

Justice Fullerton was satisfied the Crown had established five acts of misconduct by Macdonald, involving him breaching his ministerial duties of confidentiality and/or impartiality.

Inside information was provided to the Obeids which was used in a rigged tender for the licence.

Eddie Obeid's parole expires in December after he was released in 2019, after serving three years for misconduct in public office.

He was jailed for five years for lobbying a public servant to secure lease renewals for two lucrative Circular Quay businesses in 2008 without revealing his family's financial interests in the outlets.

Macdonald and former union boss John Maitland are facing a retrial after being convicted and jailed in 2017 over the awarding of a mining licence in 2008 to a company chaired by Maitland.

The Court of Criminal Appeal in 2019 found the jury was not properly directed and ordered a retrial.

Australian Associated Press