Hawke partner cleared of assault

Back in business ... Safwat Abdel-Hady.
Back in business ... Safwat Abdel-Hady.

Bob Hawke's former business partner and long-time friend, Safwat Abdel-Hady, has been cleared of a six-year-old indecent assault charge.

The Saudi businessman, 51, who befriended the former prime minister and his wife, Blanche d'Alpuget, after he moved to Australia in 2002, said it was their support and that of other close friends that kept him going.

''Few people stood by me, but they did,'' Mr Abdel-Hady said.

''He is an honourable man and he has shown that true Australian spirit of mateship. They visited me every week since this happened.''

Mr Abdel-Hady is already back in business arranging introductions and organising a string of trade missions for Australian companies, including to Lebanon.

He married for the first time last year in a celebration that was held at the Hawkes' home, with Mr Hawke acting as best man.

''This has cost me a lot, personally and in the business I have created over many years. It is like a nightmare,'' he said.

In what was characterised as an ''unusual'' case by a District Court judge earlier this month, Mr Abdel-Hady had the indecent assault charge against him dropped. His earlier conviction on that charge, as well as two counts of drink spiking to commit the offence, had also been quashed on appeal after the Supreme Court of NSW Court of Criminal Appeal found there had been a ''lack of balance'' in the summing up of the original trial judge.

A retrial had been ordered, but this month the prosecution dropped the indecent assault charge altogether. It also dropped the charges of using an over-powering drug to commit or assist to commit an indictable offence in exchange for Mr Abdel-Hady pleading guilty to lesser counts of using a poison to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm.

The lawyer for Mr Abdel-Hady, Patrick Conaghan, said in the agreed facts for the lesser charge that the couple involved in the case had asked for cocaine but Mr Abdel-Hady did not have any and instead gave them crushed-up sleeping tablets.

Trouble began for high-flying, Maserati-driving Mr Abdel-Hady in 2006 when he met the couple in a Kings Cross bar late one night then invited them to his luxurious Mosman mansion for a drink and to watch the sunrise.

During the trial, the court was told the couple admitted drinking at several bars and restaurants and consuming up to 18 standard drinks each before they went to his home.

They had alleged that while they were at his home they all had cocaine and Mr Abdel-Hady also mixed them a strong cocktail containing the sleeping pill Stilnox. The woman told the court she awoke to find Mr Abdel-Hady assaulting her as her partner slept in another room. After leaving his home they went to hospital and blood tests showed the couple had traces of Stilnox, cocaine and very high readings of alcohol. Mr Abdel-Hady had denied all of the allegations.

The court was also told the couple, on a working holiday from Melbourne, had an admitted history of drug use - speed and ecstasy - and a high tolerance for alcohol.

The court found that the original jury's guilty verdict might ''well have been affected by the lack of balance in the trial judge's summing up'' and that the judge's comments might have undermined the defence case.

It was also found that the nature of the evidence, ''in particular its crucial reliance on the credibility of the complainants, cannot be adequately judged on the papers; and we are not satisfied that the verdicts were inevitable''.

Mr Abdel-Hady said last week his biggest mistake had been bringing the strangers into his home that night.

''But what has happened, happened. I am not the first person or the last that will have something terrible happen to them.''

This story Hawke partner cleared of assault first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.