FORMER NSW government minister Joe Tripodi will face a Sydney court next week charged with misconduct in public office for allegedly feeding confidential information to Nathan Tinkler's now defunct Newcastle building company Buildev.
The charge stems from an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry in 2016 that brought down four state MPs from the Hunter.
Operation Spicer alleged Mr Tripodi misused his position as a member of parliament to advantage the Newcastle construction company Buildev by providing it with a copy of a confidential Treasury document that was subsequently published by the Newcastle Herald.
The ICAC inquiry examined whether members of Parliament used, or attempted to use, their power and influence to improperly benefit former billionaire Mr Tinkler and his company Buildev in his quest to build a coal terminal at the Port of Newcastle.
According to ICAC, in the seven years since Operation Spicer's findings were released it has sought legal advice and the opinion of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in relation to the matters investigated.
In October, a court attendance notice was issued to Mr Tripodi and he will face the Downing Centre Local Court on November 28.
"On 17 December 2021, the DPP advised that, subject to complying with a number of requisitions, there was sufficient evidence to charge Mr Tripodi with a common law offence of misconduct in public office," ICAC says.
"After completing the requisitions, the Commission accepted this advice."
Operation Spicer targeted four Hunter Liberal MPs and campaign officials over secret donations from developers for the 2011 election.
The inquiry led to former Liberal Party MPs Tim Owen, Andrew Cornwell, Craig Baumann and Garry Edwards all leaving the parliament.
The inquiry also alleged that the treasurer at the time in 2011, Eric Roozendaal, provided the report to Mr Tripodi - then a backbencher - but it also found it was not satisfied that he did so "knowing or intending" it would be passed to Buildev.
The commission alleged "serious corrupt conduct" against Mr Tripodi claiming he betrayed his duties and obligations as a member of Parliament to favour Buildev for the purpose of achieving a personal advantage.
After the Newcastle steelworks was shut, the 150-plus hectare site was split into two components, with one government agency, Newcastle Port corporation, holding about 90 hectares of waterfront land and another, the Hunter Development Corporation controlling 65 hectares near the old BHP administration building as the "Intertrade" site.
Mr Roozendaal, who denied passing on the report, was treasurer from September 2008 to March 2011 and therefore a shareholder in the port corporation.
In December 2008, the HDC agreed to lease the Intertrade site to the Buildev group - well-known at the time as a developer and commercial builder and headed by Darren Williams and David Sharpe.
Buildev had won a tender to develop its land as an industrial park but it 2010 it came up with what the ICAC described as a "radically different proposal" to build a coal loader.
Mr Tinkler bought into Buildev in November 2008 and effectively controlled 49 per cent of the company through a financing arrangement. The commission heard evidence that Buildev was in fact "controlled by the Tinkler Group".
"Buildev's objectives altered once Mr Tinkler bought into the company," ICAC's report reads.
With Mr Tinkler's then company Aston Resources listed on the stock exchange and trying to develop the Maules Creek mine, Mr Tinkler wanted the Mayfield site for a coal terminal.
ICAC noted that Buildev was a prolific donor to both sides of politics and was paying the ALP "at that time . . . about $100,000 a year".
"Sensing a likely change of state government, Buildev involved itself in the 2011 NSW election campaign in many different ways in support of the NSW Liberal Party," the report says.
By late 2010, the port corporation was well advanced on plans to develop its part of the steelworks site as a container terminal, and had chosen a consortium known as Newcastle Stevedoring Consortium, with Hunter and international partners, to develop a terminal.
This project would hamper Buildev's attempt to build a coal terminal, which was a process that the ICAC says had long-term, medium-term and short-term aims.
Short-term, it wanted to stop the port corporation signing a contract on the container terminal.
Mid-term, it wanted to improve the viability of its proposal by having an easement to connect it by rail carved out of the port corporation's land.
Long-term, it wanted to become the proponent of the Mayfield site, as well as the Intertrade land.
The commission heard evidence that Mr Tripodi and Mr Roozendaal allegedly helped Buildev in its efforts.
It heard Mr Roozendal as minister stopped the port corporation from negotiating with the container terminal consortium until Treasury had investigated the feasibility of its plans.
While he allowed the corporation to negotiate with the consortium in February 2011 he did so on the grounds that it make provision for the easement that Buildev had wanted.
But soon after telling the port corporation it could start negotiating, he withdrew that permission the same month.
"This effectively killed off any chance of advancing the container terminal before the NSW state election on 26 March 2011," the ICAC said.
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