Former NSW mining minister Ian Macdonald "liked to use the power and authority of his position" to confer benefits on his mates, the NSW anti-graft agency has found in its third report this month to declare the former frontbencher a liar and a corrupt individual.
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption on Friday found that Mr Macdonald gave away one of the state's most lucrative coal resources to former CFMEU boss John Maitland principally out of this "desire to benefit his mate".
The benefit was enormous. Mr Maitland earned $15 million on the back of a $166,000 investment in Doyles Creek Mining, the company to which Mr Macdonald issued the licence which was subsequently floated as NuCoal on the stock exchange.
In all, the company's founding investors made $85 million from their initial outlay of just $1.5 million.
Now Mr Maitland and Mr Macdonald have been found corrupt, as well as the Newcastle businessmen who bankrolled DCM, Craig Ransley and Andrew Poole, and a former director, Mike Chester. All of them except Mr Chester have been referred to the public prosecutor for potential criminal charges.
Mr Ransley, Mr Maitland and Mr Poole were found to have deliberately set out to ensure they did not face a public tender for the licence they wanted, and made false statements to the government to obtain the exploration approval.
NuCoal's shares were placed in a trading halt on Friday as a result of the ICAC report.
ICAC found on Friday that Mr Macdonald deliberately ignored the strong warnings of his department that he was obliged to put such a valuable public property up for tender.
Mr Macdonald also helped orchestrate a campaign of community support for Mr Maitland's so-called "training mine" proposal - a concept determined by ICAC as merely "masquerade" to disguise a hugely profitable export facility. Mr Macdonald even lobbied the Minerals Council to publicly support Mr Maitland's proposal, conscious he needed "political cover", ICAC said.
Tony Maher, president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, condemned the proposal: "This was never anything more than a get-rich-quick scheme cynically dressed up as a training initiative and we refused to have a bar of it," he said.
Along the way to his controversial decision - announced in a press release issued on Christmas Eve in 2008 - Mr Macdonald drank litres of the expensive wine Mr Maitland and Mr Ransley purchased at some of Sydney's finest restaurants.
"Mr Macdonald was a person who liked to use the power and authority of his position ... [for] people who were his friends," the ICAC report said, comparing it with another corruption report it handed down earlier this month. "This is what he did with members of the Obeid family, particularly [ALP powerbroker] Edward Obeid ... a blatant misuse of power, power that was abused to confer tens of millions of dollars of benefits on the Obeid family."
That inquiry found Mr Macdonald had rigged a coal tender to confer a benefit worth up to $100 million on the Obeids. "There is little, if any, difference in principle between that conduct and what the commission finds Mr Macdonald has done in [these] events ... he has used the power and authority of his position to help his friend and mate, Mr Maitland."
The watchdog also previously found he had engaged in corrupt conduct for arranging a high-level meeting for accused murderer Ron Medich, in exchange for a suite at the Four Seasons and a prostitute named Tiffanie.
Earlier, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell issued a rebuke to NuCoal, agreeing NuCoal should take no comfort from his earlier statement it was an "innocent party".
The state government is waiting for further advice from ICAC as to what action it should take over the Doyles Creek licence, and NuCoal has embarked on a media campaign using Mr O'Farrell's comment in 2011 that it was one of the "innocent parties".
Speaking shortly before ICAC tabled its findings, Mr O'Farrell walked away from his previous statement: "That was at a time before we saw [what was] unfolding within ICAC."
Mr Ransley issued a statement on Friday rejecting the findings and stating he would "consider" seeking a judicial review of the findings.