‘A single telephone call’ landed Eddie Obeid in jail. Photo: Dallas Kilponen Judith Obeid, centre, leaves court after her husband Eddie was jailed.
Eddie Obeid leaves the NSW Supreme Court on May 8, 2015. Photo: Daniel Munoz
Edward and Judith Obeid at home with their family of nine in November 1982. Photo: Phillip Lock
Former Labor minister and power broker Joe Tripodi with Eddie Obeid. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Before entering parliament, Obeid ran Media Publishing Group, which published El Telegraph. Photo: Ross Willis
Edward Moses Obeid has spent his first night in prison after being jailed for a maximum of five years over his family’s secret business dealings at Circular Quay, in an inglorious end to his 20-year political career.
Supreme Court Justice Robert-Beech Jones said “no penalty other than imprisonment is appropriate” for the corrupt former NSW Labor minister, who was found guilty in June of misconduct in public office.
Obeid, who will serve a minimum of three years behind bars before he is eligible for parole, remained impassive as Justice Beech-Jones directed he be “taken down” to the prison cells below the historic Darlinghurst Supreme Court.
At the back of the court, Judith, his wife of 51 years, was inconsolable as she was escorted outside by members of her husband’s legal team and family.
“I swear to God, he doesn’t deserve this,” she sobbed outside court.
Mrs Obeid was later bundled into a white Range Rover driven by her son-in-law Majid Saab. In a parting shot to the media, Mr Saab screamed at journalists as they drove away.
Obeid removed his watch and emptied his pockets before two Corrective Services officers took him to the prison cells.
Once there, custom dictates that Obeid would have been stripped naked and subjected to a full body search. Because of his profile it was likely that a High Risk Van with no markings would have been used to take him first to the Surry Hills police complex and then out to the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre at Silverwater jail for processing.
Upon arrival at Silverwater, Obeid would have to hand over any personal possessions before being strip-searched again. He would then be handed his prison “greens”.
After his induction into the prison system, the new inmate’s first meal would have been the famous prison meat pie.
Within the next day or so the 73-year-old will be transferred to the Kevin Waller Unit within Long Bay, which is designated for frail and aged inmates.
One of his new jail mates will be the infamous former detective Roger Rogerson, who is serving a life sentence for murder.
Among the most crooked politicians in NSW history, Obeid featured prominently in a string of corruption inquiries exposing a complex web of business dealings.
But it was, as Justice Beech-Jones observed in a lengthy judgment, “effectively … a single telephone call” to a senior bureaucrat in August 2007 that saw him jailed on Thursday.
A Supreme Court jury found Obeid guilty on June 28 of misconduct in public office over his family’s secret business dealings at Circular Quay.
At the centre of the case was a phone call Obeid made to his friend Steve Dunn, a senior bureaucrat in the NSW Maritime Authority.
The court heard he urged Mr Dunn in “strong language” to meet a commercial negotiator acting for a group of disgruntled leaseholders at Circular Quay, who were agitating for a renewal of their leases without a competitive tender.
Obeid did not reveal the negotiator was also acting for his family, who had an interest in two cafe leases on the bustling wharves.
It was a “very serious” example of a politician breaching their duty to act in the public interest, Justice Beech-Jones said.
“If Mr Obeid had not wilfully abused his position as a parliamentarian then his life and career would be a testament to the values of hard work, family and public service. Instead, his time in public life has produced a very different legacy,” he said.
After the sentence was delivered, Obeid’s barrister, Guy Reynolds, SC, made an immediate application for bail pending an appeal against conviction and sentence. The bail application was refused.
Mr Reynolds foreshadowed he would argue there had been a “miscarriage of justice” and the jury’s verdict was unreasonable and contrary to the evidence.
Obeid’s legal team had told the court before the sentencing that the former MP had a “limited life expectancy” and suffered from a “constellation of medical conditions” as they fought to keep him out of jail.
But the Crown insisted he was “far from being at death’s door” and “ill health cannot be allowed to become a licence to commit crime”.
Justice Beech-Jones noted Obeid suffered from a string of health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, “raised cholesterol, high blood pressure and colonic polyps that require periodic colonoscopies”.
The former MP, who has undergone heart bypass surgery, suffered a stroke earlier this year and was taken to hospital in August after he “tripped at home and fell onto a coffee table which collapsed under him”.
While Justice Beech-Jones accepted Obeid “would receive a superior level of care in the community” he was satisfied he would “receive an adequate level of care” in prison.
The trial followed an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption into the cafe leases.
Mr Dunn, who gave evidence during the trial, was found to be corrupt, as was Obeid’s controversial former colleague Joe Tripodi.
But neither Mr Dunn nor Mr Tripodi were accused of wrongdoing in Obeid’s trial.
Obeid and his middle son Moses are facing a committal hearing next year having been charged over a $30 million coal deal exposed in a separate ICAC inquiry.
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