The boys are back.
Moses and Paul Obeid walked away from the NSW corruption watchdog this week looking unruffled – and there cannot be too many witnesses who can count themselves in that camp.
But, of course, this isn’t their first time at the rodeo.
Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) probes Cyrus, Jasper, Cabot, Meeka, Indus and now Credo have transfixed the NSW public since fallen Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid departed Macquarie Street in 2011.
The Obeid clan has figured in every one of these operations, and several of Mr Obeid’s nine children have appeared at 133 Castlereagh Street.
“It’s fairly obvious that these people thought they were running the state of NSW,” is how banker Gardner Brook described to ICAC one encounter with Mr Obeid and fellow former MP Joe Tripodi in Moses Obeid’s front room.
He was referring to a scheme that Moses allegedly boasted would hand the Obeids control over all of Sydney’s water – and bring in a cool $100 million.
Moses says there was no such deal and that Mr Brook was “high as a kite” in his only visit to his home in Sydney’s exclusive Elizabeth Bay.
Counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson SC, didn’t buy it.
“At the end of this, it could be that I submit that your evidence is not believable,” he ventured.
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Moses shot back.
“You seem to want to hang onto the fact that I might have told a little white lie.”
Moses must have faith in his brothers.
When they asked him in late 2010 to sign $3 million over to his little brother Edward’s best friend Nick Di Girolamo, he didn’t bother to read the document.
“I had a quick look at it, I signed the document and I relied on my brothers that the rest of the things would be hunky-dory, so to speak,” he told the ICAC this week.
Moses says he never noticed a heading, written in bold at the top of page three: “Sale of Shares”.
Rather, he believed this was a simple hand-up to a friend in need.
He has denied the document actually records the Obeid family’s decision to buy a secret stake in Australian Water Holdings, the company his brother’s mate was running.
This is despite signing a $1 million cheque to Mr Di Girolamo that is listed in Obeid family ledgers as a payment to Australian Water.
“Now surely at the time you were signing that cheque you were thinking about what you were doing? Or were you just about to run off to the toilet?” Mr Watson asked.
“With that amount of money I might have done a number two,” Moses replied, to groans and guffaws from the public gallery.
Few families in NSW politics can have clocked up so many newspaper inches, and the Obeid boys’ turns in the spotlight never fail to draw a crowd.
There is Damian, the firstborn with the acid tongue; then Paul, who this week jokingly asked a photographer to try to capture his best side.
Moses fancies himself “higher up in the pecking order”, the ICAC has heard.
Then comes Edward, and of course Gerard, immortally dubbed the family “gofer” in a previous inquiry.
“I get the impression you really have no idea,” former ICAC Commissioner David Ipp QC once observed.
“Absolutely I don’t,” Gerard replied brightly.
They’re tight, the Obeid sons.
Their business dealings are interwoven and their not-insubstantial family fortune tucked away in an inscrutable warren of shared trusts.
Yet, like all brothers, there’s rough and tumble now and then.
Not surprisingly, the souring of the $3 million “loan” to Mr Di Girolamo led to sibling tensions.
“They were basically saying to Edward (Jnr), `when are we going to get our interest payments, when do we expect to receive some payment’,” brother-in-law and Obeid Corporation financial controller Sam Achie recalled.
But Moses denied the discussions became too heated.
“We’re Mediterranean men, you know. We get a little bit robust every now and again,” he quipped.
“Let me put it to you this way, there was some concern.”
His brother Paul put it another way.
“I mean, Eddie’s (Jnr) a silly boy,” he said.
“Eddie and Nick (Di Girolamo) have got a very close relationship and I sometimes think he treats me like a stepbrother and Nick’s his brother.
“But … I’m sure Eddie believes in Nick and Nick’s a very honourable person and we wouldn’t have lent Nick the three million if we didn’t think so in the first place.”
None of that money had been repaid, he said.
Yet if there is bad blood over the deal, it’s not showing.
Paul and Moses entered the commission apart, but they walked out into the sunshine with the cameras flashing very much together.
With matching sunglasses and matching haircuts, of course.