Obeid friend admits lying to corruption inquiry
Date January 21, 2013 – 5:13PM 42 reading now
Lied … Joseph Georges. Photo: Supplied
A close friend of the Obeid family has admitted lying about his business involvement with them at a corruption inquiry into coal mining exploration licences in the NSW Hunter.
Joseph Georges, a Strathfield real estate agent and close family friend of the Obeids, gave evidence on Monday before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
The watchdog is examining whether former NSW Labor minister Ian Macdonald rigged the tender process for exploration licences in the Bylong Valley in 2008 and how ALP powerbroker Eddie Obeid may have gained from it.
Mr Georges told the inquiry he had no business interests with the Obeid family, but later admitted that was a lie after conceding both he and the Obeids had held shares in a mining company, Mincorp Pty Ltd.
“I’m putting something specific to you, you see. That answer was false, wasn’t it?” counsel assisting the commissioner, Geoffrey Watson, SC, asked.
“Yes,” Mr Georges replied.
“It was a lie?” Mr Watson asked soon after.
“Yes,” Mr Georges replied.
Mr Watson suggested Mr Georges paid more than $400,000 into accounts for the Obeids, even though he didn’t know where the money was going.
“You are depositing sums in excess of $400,000 in relation to the undocumented loan, interest-free, given in respect of a company whose business you do not know, in respect of a venture you cannot describe, involving a man, Gardner Brook, who you do not even know … exists,” Mr Watson said.
Mr Georges conceded to the ICAC that he knew the Obeids were behind the transactions and admitted he became in effect a “partner of the Obeids” at the time.
“Well, it came to that down the track, yes,” he said.
Mr Georges denied the Obeids had any business involvement in a marina that he had invested in at Elizabeth Bay in Sydney.
However, he said Moses Obeid had a key to the marina office, had access to the marina’s accounts and had “a tendency to turn up to the marina all the time”.
“If someone wants to go to the toilet, they need keys,” Mr Georges said.
Earlier, former chief executive of the NSW Minerals Council, Nicole Williams, told ICAC the decision to limit bidders for licences on the Bylong Valley tender process to small and medium-sized miners was “unprecedented”.
Dr Williams said the decision had been received with “outrage” by industry.
She also said she believed the decision was contrary to the interests of the state.
“I thought that these leases ought to be tendered to companies that were best placed to develop those, which had nothing to do with their size,” she said.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/obeid-friend-admits-lying-to-corruption-inquiry-20130121-2d2rt.html#ixzz2IbJB29mx