Obeid's bail win, Macdonald loses passport


Former NSW Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid has won his opening battle in court with a magistrate refusing a bid to place him under strict bail conditions.

Eddie Obeid has enjoyed a legal win with a magistrate refusing to apply strict bail conditions on him after former ally Ian Macdonald was ordered to hand over his passport.

Obeid, 71, appeared in a Sydney court on Thursday and successfully fought an attempt to strip his passport as part of his bail conditions.

Magistrate Christopher O'Brien refused the prosecution's bid on the grounds that Obeid's chances of attempting to flee were tenuous and because of Obeid's ties to the community.

"I am not satisfied that there is any unacceptable risk," he said.

The former Labor powerbroker is facing a charge of misconduct in public office relating to alleged inducements to former deputy Maritime NSW CEO Stephen Dunn over the extension of leases for family-owned businesses in Sydney's Circular Quay in 2007.

Outside court, Obeid said he looked forward to clearing his name.

"I have full confidence in our judicial system," he said.

"We now have a level playing field."

In a separate, brief appearance on Thursday, chief magistrate Graeme Henson placed former NSW minister Macdonald on conditional bail.

He has to surrender his passport and agree not to approach witnesses before a February 24 court appearance on misconduct charges relating to the Doyles Creek mine deal.

In Obeid's matter, the court heard a witness in the case is Dunn, who was branded corrupt by the same ICAC whose report launched the prosecution against Obeid.

Prosecutor Daniel Noll said the evidence against Obeid was strong and that contact between Dunn and Obeid was the foundation of the case.

But Obeid's lawyer, John Stratton SC, argued the case was weak, in part because ICAC Assistant Commissioner, Anthony Whealy QC, found there was insufficient admissible evidence upon which to base a prosecution on Obeid's alleged dealings with Dunn.

He also argued there was no evidence Obeid would interfere with the prosecution's 30 witnesses, which include Obeid's brother-in-law John Abood and former colleagues Joe Tripodi, Eric Roozendaal and Michael Costa.

Mr O'Brien noted the DPP had reached a different conclusion to Justice Whealy.

"But Justice Whealy's concerns weigh heavily," Mr O'Brien said.

The magistrate also noted Obeid's community ties, including the fact he had no prior convictions and his ties to his wife of 49 years, and his large family of nine children and 31 grandchildren, all of whom live in Australia.

Obeid sat silently in court for much of the morning, but said "not true" when the court heard his Hunter's Hill mansion was up for sale.

He was stripped of his Order of Australia Medal this week and relieved of his "honourable" title earlier this month.

Ex-union official John Maitland was also ordered to surrender his passport before a future court appearance on separate allegations relating to the Doyles Creek deal.

Obeid's matter is expected to return on February 19.

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