Former Labor minister Eddie Obeid, who is awaiting sentence for misconduct in public office, has hired a private detective in an attempt to discover whether a crime figure provided information about his and his family's affairs to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Obeid and three of his five sons - Moses, Paul and Eddie jnr - are suing former ICAC commissioner David Ipp, counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson, SC, two ICAC officers, as well as ICAC itself and the State of NSW, for "misfeasance in public office".
The Obeids maintain they were unfairly targeted by the corruption watchdog during the sensational 2012 ICAC inquiry, which revealed the family received a $30 million windfall from the coal exploration licence which ICAC heard was created "smack-bang" on top of their family farm Cherrydale Park, near Mudgee.
The family want damages for their economic loss and for the "significant stress, mental anxiety and injury" they claim to have suffered as result of the ICAC inquiry.
Obeid and his son Moses have since been criminally charged over the coal matter and they face a committal hearing later this month.
The Obeids have been using the services of Philippines-based PI, Ken Gamble, to get information for their civil action against ICAC, which is set to start on Tuesday.
In an email sent in June to the crime figure, which has been seen by Fairfax Media, Mr Gamble wrote: "As you may be aware, my clients commenced a claim in the NSW Supreme Court in December 2015 against the ICAC and certain individuals who were employed there. I have been requested to investigate certain matters to assist this claim."
Mr Gamble also said, "I have been informed by my client that if you do decide to help us, that this assistance could be on the basis of full anonymity to protect your name and identity and that we could do this by the use of a pseudonym. In other words, we would ensure that this matter did not become the subject of any media scrutiny or public knowledge."
According to the email exchange, the Obeids wanted to know "whether you provided certain documents to either the NSW Police or ICAC". There was also mention of football great Peter Tunks.
In their statement of claim against ICAC, the Obeids alleged that Tunks demanded a $2 million payment from the Obeid family "to prevent him from delivering the documents to the ICAC".
This was denied in the witness box by Tunks during the 2012 ICAC hearing, which eventually found Eddie Obeid and his son Moses guilty of corrupt conduct.
In their action against ICAC, the Obeids claimed that Tunks was lying and that ICAC and its officers knew or should have known this. This was denied by the ICAC in its filed defence.
On Thursday the NSW Supreme Court heard the Obeids had radically revised their case on the eve of the hearing, dropping a number of claims they had previously levelled against the ICAC. It is no known whether the Tunks claim was one of those abandoned last week.
"We anticipate that the new case is just as bad as the present case," said Peter Braham, SC, acting for ICAC officer Grant Lockley. Mr Braham said part of the Obeids' case was now "completely different".
Jeremy Kirk, SC, for ICAC, said there was a tendency for the Obeids' barristers to have "little thought bubbles" at the bar table. "Very serious allegations have been just thrown away," Dr Kirk said of the new case.
Dr Kirk said the allegations levelled against ICAC and its officers were of the "utmost seriousness" and needed to be argued with precision.
Justice David Hammerschlag agreed, saying the case could not be a "work in progress". The judge gave the Obeids leave to amend the case on Thursday but ordered them to pay the defendants' costs, which were likely to be substantial given the number of lawyers briefed to appear for the remaining six ICAC defendants. The Obeids have dropped five ICAC officers from the case.
Obeid will be sentenced this month after recently being found guilty over his failure to disclose his family's interests in cafe leases at Circular Quay while he was lobbying government officials to gain benefits for his family.
Source: The Herald