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Eddie Obeid's criminal trial postponed amid legal wrangling

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المصدر: The Sydney Morning Herald
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Eddie Obeid outside the Supreme Court in May this year. Photo: Nick Moir

Eddie Obeid's criminal trial will not go ahead this year, with legal battles between his lawyers and the Director of Public Prosecutions forcing the Supreme Court to postpone the hearing.

 

The hotly-anticipated trial of the former NSW Labor powerbroker was slated to begin on October 12 and run for up to a month.

 

Mr Obeid was charged last November with misconduct in public office after the Independent Commission Against Corruption found he corruptly lobbied colleagues and former NSW Maritime chief executive Steve Dunn over his family's secret business interests at Circular Quay.

 

While the 71-year-old will not face trial this year, his lawyers are still making regular appearances on his behalf in the Supreme Court.

 

Robert Newlinds, SC, who led the bias application against Trade Union Royal Commissioner Dyson Heydon recently as counsel for the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has been retained by Mr Obeid and three of his sons to represent them in a case against ICAC.

 

Mr Obeid and his sons Moses, Paul and Eddie junior are suing the former head of ICAC, David Ipp, QC, and others involved in a landmark inquiry into a lucrative coal tenement created over the Obeid family's farm in the Bylong Valley near Mudgee.

 

Sydney silk Geoffrey Watson, who was counsel assisting the inquiry, seven officers of ICAC, and the state of NSW are also being sued, although the defendants have argued ICAC itself is the proper defendant rather than the state.

 

Mr Newlinds said on Wednesday the Obeids would seek leave to add ICAC as a defendant out of an "abundance of caution".

 

The Obeids are seeking damages and a declaration that Mr Ipp, Mr Watson and the ICAC officers "engaged in misfeasance in public office".

 

The claims are denied and the defendants are seeking to rely on s 109 of the ICAC Act, which provides protection from liability for acts of the commissioner and others if they were done in good faith.

 

Among the Obeids' claims are that ICAC falsely alleged damning evidence was found in the family's Birkenhead Point offices, a claim which is denied. They also say Mr Watson "behaved towards Mr Obeid senior in an aggressive, threatening and intimidating manner", "yelled" at him and made sarcastic comments.

 

In a defence filed in court, Mr Watson admits he "occasionally" questioned Mr Obeid aggressively, raised his voice and employed sarcasm but says his conduct was "warranted".

 

The Obeids are seeking a declaration that four reports involving members of the family and a further two investigations, into Obeid-linked company Australian Water Holdings and Liberal Party donations, were outside the commission's power. The commission has yet to release reports in the latter inquiries.

 

The case is the latest front in an escalating legal war between ICAC and high-profile targets of its investigations.

 

Mr Newlinds said the Obeids may go to the ICAC Inspector, former Supreme Court judge David Levine, QC, because the current ICAC Commissioner had refused to hand over documents his clients were seeking to use in their civil suit.

 

He said Commissioner Megan Latham, also a former Supreme Court judge, had released some documents "from the cloak of ICAC's secrecy regime" to the defendants but had adopted an "inconsistent position" in relation to the Obeids.

 

The civil case will be heard from May 14 next year. Lawyers for the Obeids estimate it could take up to three weeks.

المصدر: The Sydney Morning Herald

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