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Australian Assistant Treasurer Steps Aside Amid Investigation

Australian Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos stepped aside as an independent commission probing state government corruption looks into dealings of a company he used to chair.

The probe is an “unnecessary distraction” to the government, Sinodinos, 57, told the Senate today and thanked colleagues for their ongoing faith in his integrity. His decision to step aside was the “right and honorable thing,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption heard this week that Sinodinos stood to gain as much as A$20 million ($18.2 million) from a deal involving former New South Wales state Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid and Australian Water Holdings, in which Sinodinos held a stake. Lawmakers in the opposition Labor party had this week stepped up pressure on Sinodinos to resign.

Sinodinos was senior economic adviser to John Howard during his two terms as opposition leader from 1987-89 and 1995-96. After Howard was elected prime minister in 1996, Sinodinos was appointed his chief of staff.

After quitting his government role in 2006, Sinodinos worked with Goldman Sachs JBWere and National Australia Bank Ltd., along with other corporate appointments. In 2008, he was awarded the Order of Australia for services to politics and the Greek community. He’s held positions of honorary treasurer and president of the Liberal Party’s New South Wales division.

Sinodinos entered the Senate in 2011 and became assistant treasurer after Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition won power in September.

Abbott said he looked forward to Sinodinos being restored to the role of assistant treasurer. In the meantime, his responsibilities will be handled by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

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