Arthur Sinodinos' financial woes

''I spend my life worrying about my fellow man, my friends, my family, making sure 'Er Indoors has a crust, pushing the economy of this septic isle ever upwards with my entrepreneurial skills,'' moaned TV's famous dodgy dealer Arthur Daley.

While they are poles apart, Senator Arthur Sinodinos has found himself in hot water because of the very same problems.

The Obeid family excepted, politics is not a road to riches. When Sinodinos joined the Senate in late 2011, the salary for a backbencher was about $140,000.

The new senator had a problem. He was paying almost $100,000 a year to rent a house in Dumaresq Road, Rose Bay, which enjoyed panoramic views of Sydney Harbour.

He was paying leases on a Jaguar and a Mercedes, he had two children to put through private school and a socially ambitious wife, Elizabeth. Late last year Mrs Sinodinos, 39, already a director of Greek Young Matrons' Association, became a director of Betteroff Australia Ltd, which gives law firm Clayton Utz as its business address. Former state Liberal minister Ron Phillips joined the company on the same day.

Even with his superior financial skills, Sinodinos, 56, was only too painfully aware that the figures didn't add up. When a third child Alexander arrived in 2012, the senator was even more financially stretched. Senior Liberal figures urged him to move back to his home town of Newcastle where the cost of living was cheaper.

Instead, Sinodinos kept the gun-barrel views of the harbour, albeit in rented rooms at the Watsons Bay Hotel. The hotel is part-owned by the family of federal Liberal MP Craig Laundy. Hotel staff have previously insisted that Sinodinos paid full rent during his stay at the hotel. He is now understood to be living with his in-laws.

Those who know Sinodinos say that once he decided to become a senator he had a limited amount of time to make money, and that is why the $200,000 per year on offer from Australian Water Holdings was too good to pass up. Although he was alarmed to find Eddie Obeid's son at the company, Sinodinos has told others he was assured there was no other Obeid involvement. As it turns out, the Obeids purchased 30 per cent of the company in 2010 while Sinodinos was a director.

The $3 million the Obeids used to buy in came from the tainted proceeds of a coal deal, which has already been deemed to be corrupt by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Senior public servants also claim to have warned Sinodinos about the extraordinary expenses AWH was charging back to Sydney Water.

Sinodinos also claimed to be unaware that AWH, of which he was a director, donated $75,000 to the NSW Liberal Party, of which he was treasurer. Like the $4 million annual salary bill for the tiny firm, the money for the donations was billed back to Sydney Water, a state-owed utility.

In May 2010 one of the investors in AWH was so concerned he organised a meeting with Sinodinos. Rod De Aboitiz has told the ICAC that he confronted Sinodinos about the extraordinarily high salaries the directors were paying themselves as the company was in financial distress.

''Arthur, you know that solvency is a big issue for a director,'' De Aboitiz says he warned.

But the prospect of a $20 million payday down the track was too good for Sinodinos to pass up.

As TV's Arthur Daley opined: ''Your modern entrepreneur is constantly gazing into the crystal ball of opportunity.''

Correction: The original version of this story said Craig Laundy was a state Liberal MP.

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