ICAC latest: Obeid and MacDonald charged

Miscellaneous

The latest ICAC news is the charging yesterday by the DPP of former NSW Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian MacDonald over corruption findings made by the Commission earlier this year.[1] Obeid was found to have acted corruptly in relation to the licensing of cafes connected with family interests, while MacDonald was found to have acted corruptly in the granting of coal mining licences in country NSW.

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The ICAC has come under fire after a number of sensational recent investigations, with some saying it is acting outside its purpose and should be shut down. There is a current parliamentary inquiry on foot in relation to the number of prosecutions which lead from ICAC investigations.[2] Obeid himself challenged ICAC to convince the DPP to commence proceedings after the ICAC handed down its findings in June.[3] He stated “I am very confident that no court of law will take any of these inquiries and I challenge ICAC to convince the DPP to take up any of those inquiries”.[4]  It seems the DPP, and ICAC, have called his bluff.

Notable investigations

Nick Greiner

ICAC’s first scalp was its founder: former Premier Nick Greiner. In 1992 the Commission ruled that the then Premier’s offer of a government job to a former minister was “technical corruption”. As a result, Greiner lost the leadership and resigned. Subsequent criminal charges were dismissed by the courts.[5]

Barry O’Farrell

Greiner was the first Premier to be toppled by an ICAC investigation, but not the last. In April this year, former Premier Barry O’Farrell resigned after he was called in to the Commission and suffered a “massive memory fail”, when he insisted under questioning by counsel assisting the Commission Geoffrey Robertson SC that he did not receive a $3000 bottle of Penfolds Grange from Liberal Party fundraiser and Obeid associate Nick di Girolamo after winning the State election in 2011. BOF’s fate was sealed when a thank you note handwritten and signed by the former Premier was produced during the O’Farrell’s second day of questioning at the Commission.[6]

Margaret Cunneen SC

The latest controversial investigation, the Supreme Court challenge of which is analysed in another SCDL blog, concerns allegations that Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen SC acted corruptly by counselling her son’s girlfriend to fake chest pains in order to avoid a breath test following a car accident earlier this year. Cunneen unsuccessfully sought to have the proceedings deemed unlawful at the Supreme Court, and the matter is now before the Court of Appeal.[7] Focusing on a Crown Prosecutor is certainly a new one for ICAC.

Past investigations

ICAC has been operating continuously since 1989.[8] It has conducted well over 100 investigations since this time.[9] Some which stand out for their saucy subject matter:

  • An allegation that NSW Police fitted up a punter in Redfern by slipping heroin into the pocket of clothing seized by them (1989)
  • Theft of personal property from corpses at Glebe Morgue (1998)
  • Inappropriate relationships between Department of Corrective Services staff / Corrections Health Service nurses and prison inmates (1998)
  • Participation by an RTA employee in rebirthing cars (2000)
  • Involvement of DCS staff in prison escapes (2000)
  • Theft of zoological specimens from the Australian Museum (2003)
  • Solicitation of bribes by a registry official at Penrith Local Court to defendants (2006)
  • Bribery in the regulation of brothels at Parramatta City Council (2007)[10]

The future

What will the next chapter in ICAC’s history be? A slapping by the Court of Appeal in the Cunneen case? Legislative curtailing of its powers? One thing is for certain: controversy is guaranteed.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-20/ian-macdonald-eddie-obeid-to-be-prosecuted/5905540

[2] http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/committee.nsf/0/8C8E67E249288F02CA257CFC001BBC04

[3] http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/eddie-obeid-dismisses-corruption-findings-the-dpp-will-not-lay-any-charges-20140605-39ll4.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/ghosts-of-past-misdeeds-lurk-behind-a-career-cut-short-20140416-36sen.html

[6] http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nsw-premier-barry-ofarrell-resigns-20140416-36qwv.html

[7] https://www.sydneycriminaldefencelawyers.com.au/cunneen-v-icac-judgment-summary-and-discussion/

[8] http://www.icac.nsw.gov.au/about-the-icac/overview

[9] http://www.icac.nsw.gov.au/investigations/past-investigations

[10] Ibid.

Image credit: ABC News

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