Arthur Sinodinos may still step aside, despite the Prime Minister’s support after claims the assistant treasurer stood to make $20 million from a deal involving disgraced former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid.
A News Corp Australia report says this is because he does not want an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry to impact the Government’s economic message ahead of the May federal budget release.
Sinodinos is a witness assisting the inquiry and has not been officially accused of any wrongdoing. The allegations against him were made in evidence tendered to ICAC.
This comes as documents, including a diary entry tabled at ICAC yesterday appear to prove Sinodinos was involved in negotiations to sell a $15 million stake in Australian Water Holdings, and that he met lawyer John McGuigan on February 25, 2011 to discuss the sale.
At the time, Senator Sinodinos was chairman of AWH. McGuigan was a director of Cascade Coal, a company found to be corrupt by ICAC last year after it hid the Obeid family’s role in obtaining its coal tenements.
Sinodinos’ colleagues, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, have expressed their broad support, though reportedly some are worried about the political implications of the inquiry, which Sinodinos is assisting.
“There are important matters being investigated by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. In respect of Senator Sinodinos, the matters in question happened prior to his entering parliament and becoming a minister,” the Prime Minister said.
“The senator has been asked to assist an inquiry into a particular company; he is doing so fully and frankly, as you would expect. Senator Sinodinos has served our country long and faithfully as a Treasury official and as the chief of staff to a prime minister, as well as a member of this parliament.”
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