Obeid lawyers seek opinion of upper house president

Obeid lawyers seek opinion of upper house president

Lawyers for Eddie Obeid have approached the President of the NSW Legislative Council, John Ajaka, for his opinion on a key aspect of their appeal of the jailed ex-minister’s conviction for misconduct in public office.
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Fairfax Media has learned Obeid’s lawyers have also sent a legal opinion provided to them by former High Court judge Ian Callinan, QC, to Mr Ajaka and the Clerk of the Parliaments, David Blunt.

The opinion is understood to say the Parliament, not the courts, should have dealt with Obeid’s failure to disclose his family’s interests in retail leases at Circular Quay while lobbying for their renewal by the state government in 2007.

This is because the non-disclosure of a pecuniary interest by an MP is the jurisdiction of the Parliament.

It is one of the key arguments Obeid’s legal team will rely on in the appeal against his jailing for a minimum of three years after being found guilty of misconduct in public office.The appeal is due to be heard as early as May.

The argument that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to hear a misconduct in office case was taken to the High Court by Obeid prior to his conviction.

The argument said only the NSW Parliament – specifically the Legislative Council where Obeid was an MLC for more than 20 years – could determine the case.

High Court Justice Stephen Gageler rejected the application and said Obeid could make that and other legal arguments “if he were convicted at trial and unsuccessful in any subsequent appeal against conviction”.

It is understood that Obeid’s solicitor, Abbas Soukie of Hanna Legal, has written several times to the office of the President asking for his opinion of the law as it relates to the matter.

While Mr Ajaka has not formally responded to correspondence he has received, deputy president Trevor Khan has written back saying it is not the president’s role.

Senior government figures believe the letters are an attempt by Obeid’s lawyers to get Mr Ajaka to formally intervene in the appeal.

Invited to comment, Mr Soukie asked Fairfax Media not to report on the legal opinion and correspondence.

A spokeswoman for Mr Ajaka confirmed he has received correspondence from Mr Obeid’s lawyers.

“The President has not formally responded,” she said. “The Legislative Council has no current intention to intervene in the appeal case.”

Obeid, 73, was sentenced in December to a maximum of five years in prison for misconduct in public office over his family’s secret business dealings at Circular Quay. He will be eligible for parole in three years.

The trial followed an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.