Former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid to begin seven-year jail term on the weekend

The 77-year-old was released on health grounds after being sentenced but has now been ordered to attend Silverwater prison on Saturday morning

Former New South Wales Labor power broker Eddie Obeid must attend Silverwater jail on Saturday morning to begin his seven-year term after a supreme court judge said she was not prepared to grant bail while the 77-year-old appealed his conviction.

Justice Elizabeth Fullerton had allowed Obeid to return to his Hunters Hill home on Thursday night immediately after sentencing the disgraced former politician.

Fullerton was concerned about the Covid risk involved in sending him to the police lockup at Surry Hills for up to 24 hours before he entered Silverwater to be processed.

During sentencing submissions, Obeid’s lawyer, April Francis, had outlined significant health issues including a heart condition. She said there was a real risk of death if he was to contract Covid in custody.

Unable to get assurances on the processes at the Surry Hills police station, Fullerton allowed Obeid to go home while his lawyers considered a request for bail and prosecutors investigated how he would be admitted to the prison system.

On Friday afternoon, Corrective Services NSW agreed he could be admitted directly to Silverwater jail, where he will be assessed, kept in isolation for 14 days and then assigned to his permanent prison location.

His co-conspirator, the former NSW minerals minister Ian Macdonald, 72, was on Thursday sentenced to nine years and six months over his part in a conspiracy to gain a mining lease over the Obeid’s family farm at Bylong in regional NSW.

Obeid’s son, Moses Obeid, 52, was sentenced to five years for his role in the conspiracy.

The three men were found guilty in July of a conspiracy to wilfully have Macdonald commit misconduct in public office involving the granting of a coal exploration licence by Macdonald over land owned by an Obeid family company.

They have indicated they will appeal their convictions and sentences and seek bail while the appeals are heard.

Fullerton refused to hear an immediate bail application from Obeid on Friday. Having sat as the judge of both fact and law in the trial – there was no jury – she ran the risk of having to review her own decision, she said.

A bail decision involves assessing whether there are reasonable grounds for an appeal.

On Thursday, Fullerton refused to hear bail applications from Moses Obeid and Macdonald and told them another judge would have to hear their applications. No date has yet been set for those hearings.

Eddie Obeid, who turns 78 on Monday, will serve at least three years and 10 months of his prison sentence before being eligible for parole in August 2025. Macdonald must serve at least five years and three months behind bars. Moses Obeid received a non-parole period of three years.


Anne Davies

The GuardianTramp