Tripodi ‘disappointed’ by Obeid’s secrets


Former NSW minister Joe Tripodi has denied he was betrayed by his political mentor Eddie Obeid, who didn’t reveal hidden family interests in leases he lobbied the government over.


But Mr Tripodi told the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) he was “extremely disappointed” the former Labor kingmaker didn’t inform him of family investments in two restaurants and a cafe on government controlled land at Circular Quay.

It came as the ICAC inquiry into alleged untoward behaviour by Mr Obeid was widened on Friday to consider whether Mr Tripodi also acted corruptly.

On Friday the ICAC heard the enterprises at the quay were owned by a front company controlled by an Obeid trust, with associate and relative John Aboud acting as the face of the business.

“If, as you say, Mr Obeid did not tell you that his family had interests in Circular Quay, then … do you not regard his behaviour to you … as a complete betrayal,” Assistant Commissioner Anthony Whealy asked Mr Tripodi.

“Definitely I would have preferred if he had told me. I’m very disappointed, extremely disappointed,” Mr Tripodi replied.

The scope of the inquiry has been extended to also investigate allegations Mr Tripodi did in fact know the Obeid family secretly owned leases.

Mr Tripodi’s former deputy chief of staff, Lynne Ashpole, told te hearing on Thursday that her boss told her in 2006 about the Obeids’ stake in the lucrative cafes, which earned the family about $2.5 million a year.

“In view of the evidence that was given, I should indicate that I propose now to amend the scope of the allegation … by including … Mr Tripodi,” Commissioner Whealy said on Friday.

During his time in the witness box, Mr Tripodi also denied he had changed policy governing the leases at Mr Obeid’s request.

The leases were to go out to public tender when they expired in August 2005.

But they weren’t renewed until 2009, without going to public tender.

Mr Tripodi, who was Minister for Ports from February 2006 until November 2009, was initially in favour of seeking expressions of interest.

He denied changes were made at the request of Mr Obeid, who Mr Tripodi agreed was urging a shift in policy.

A phone transcript tabled in the ICAC showed calls in August and September 2007 between Mr Obeid, Mr Tripodi and Steve Dunn, a senior bureaucrat who had come into the ports ministry after heading up the fisheries department under Mr Obeid.

Mr Dunn is also being investigated for corruption.

“Was the matter being discussed in the course of these telephone conversations … the development of the commercial lease policy?” counsel assisting Ian Temby, QC, asked Mr Tripodi.

“No,” Mr Tripodi replied.

“Definitely not between myself and Mr Obeid.”

The hearing, which is investigating whether Mr Obeid lobbied several state ministers to change the Circular Quay leases, continues next week.

It’s expected to last three weeks.

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