Ignorant to Obeid involvement: chairman
Market watch top headlines
SYDNEY, Jan 22 AAP
January 22 2013, 1:43PM
The former chairman of a mining company has told a corruption inquiry he didn't know the Obeids were involved in a tender process for coal exploration licences in the NSW Hunter.
Wayne Mitchell was the non-executive chairman of Coalworks when the junior miner made a number of bids on a 2008 tender process in the Bylong Valley.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating whether this process was rigged by former Labor minister Ian Macdonald and designed to benefit Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid.
On Tuesday the ICAC heard Coalworks moved to enter into an agreement with Gardner Brook, who represented the Obeids, after Mr Brook made an unsolicited telephone call to Mr Mitchell in Thailand around August 2009.
The deal between Coalworks and Mr Brook was aimed at securing a mining exploration licence over the Yarrawa tenement in the Bylong Valley.
Coalworks had made a bid for that tenement but it was rejected by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).
Mr Mitchell said Mr Brook telephoned him and said "a company that I represent won that bid and currently don't have the funds to proceed to pay the money due to the DPI, would you be interested in looking at that".
Mr Mitchell said he replied the company would "certainly be interested in looking at it".
Mr Mitchell said Coalworks paid Mr Brook a $200,000 brokerage fee but rejected suggestions he knew of a connection to the Obeids.
"Did he (Brook) ever tell you that he was representing the Obeids?" counsel assisting the Commissioner, Geoffrey Watson, SC, asked.
"Never," Mr Mitchell replied.
Mr Mitchell said he found out Mr Brook was fronting the venture for the Obeids only when he read about it in the press.
No wrongdoing was suggested on the part of Coalworks.
The inquiry continues before Commissioner David Ipp.