Crooked ex-MP Eddie Obeid lobbied former NSW premier Nathan Rees about Australian Water Holdings (AWH) on the steps of parliament, the corruption watchdog has heard.
But Mr Rees said his Labor colleague never disclosed any family connection with the controversial company.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating allegations AWH corruptly billed Sydney Water for luxury hotels and limousine rides.
Three former NSW ministers from both sides of politics appeared before the commission on Tuesday to tell how they were lobbied by Mr Obeid, AWH chief Nick Di Girolamo or others connected to AWH.
Mr Rees told the inquiry Mr Obeid approached him during his stretch as NSW water minister between 2007 and 2008.
“I think it happened on the steps of the parliament but I couldn’t be certain, and it was along the lines of, ‘Nick Di Girolamo has an issue with Sydney Water, can you speak to him or meet with him?’,” he said.
Mr Rees said Mr Obeid never mentioned any family connection with AWH.
It has been alleged the Obeids owned a stake in the company and stood to make tens of millions if a proposed government deal got up.
The former premier said he could not remember calling the men behind AWH “a bunch of crooks”, as sensationally claimed by former Sydney Water managing director Kerry Schott.
“Not that I recall, but Kerry Schott’s memory’s probably better than mine,” Mr Rees told reporters.
The man who replaced Mr Rees as water minister, Phil Costa, has testified that less than a month after he took the job, Mr Obeid asked him to meet Mr Di Girolamo.
He told the inquiry Mr Obeid spoke to him about AWH and Sydney Water multiple times.
But the encounter that sticks in his mind is a conversation in a parliamentary lift, when Mr Obeid asked him to get rid of Dr Schott.
“For some reason he asked me to ‘sack the bitch’,” Mr Costa told the inquiry.
“I was a little gobsmacked by it.”
But Mr Costa said he had no intention of demoting Dr Schott.
“We were warriors in arms,” Mr Costa said.
“She was doing what needed to be done.”
The inquiry has previously heard that Dr Schott insisted AWH justify its “ballooning” billings and raised questions about an allegedly doctored cabinet minute that recommended the government enter talks with AWH about a lucrative public-private partnership.
Former Liberal frontbencher Greg Pearce was also in the ICAC witness box on Tuesday, testifying that Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos and fundraiser Michael Photios both lobbied him about AWH.
But the final straw came when Mr Di Girolamo went over his head to arrange a meeting with Premier Barry O’Farrell on a day Mr Pearce was trying to get a major bill passed in parliament.
“I was being lobbied on this issue and I didn’t appreciate it,” he said.
The inquiry continues.