Disturbing claims of abuse heard at Royal Commission into Knox Grammar School

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Child abuse cover-up?

Child abuse cover-up?

A FORMER teacher at Sydney’s prestigious Knox Grammar school has failed to appear at a royal commission into child abuse.

The commission has issued a warrant for the arrest of Christopher Fotis, who was due to give evidence on Tuesday.

A public hearing this week has heard disturbing claims of abuse at Knox, which happened in the 1970s and 80s. Boys at one of Australia’s most exclusive schools were allegedly shown pornography, given alcohol and groomed for sex by a number of teachers at the school.

On Thursday David Lloyd, counsel advising the commission, said police were searching for Fotis and if he was found he would be brought to the commission.

Fotis was never charged with offences at Knox but was jailed in Melbourne for sexual abuse offences at a school there after his time at Knox, in Wahroonga on Sydney’s north shore.

The inquiry into the NSW private boys’ school is focusing on an incident in 1988 at one of the boarding houses, MacNeil House, when a person wearing a Knox tracksuit and balaclava hid under a child’s bed and sexually assaulted him.

Mr Lloyd said although the person’s face was concealed by the balaclava a number of the boys in the dormitory believed the offender was Fotis.

Former students have also alleged abuse by other teachers happened in dimly-lit music rehearsals. One of the teachers was still working at the school when he was arrested in 2009.

The expensive private school, whose old boys include judges, politicians such as the late Gough Whitlam and actors Hugh Jackman and Hugo Weaving, faced adverse publicity in 2009 when four teachers pleaded guilty to abusing students.

One “notorious molester” had memorial gates erected in his honour with the inscription “He touched us all”, the inquiry was told.

Prestigious: Hugh Jackman was a former student at the prestigious Knox Grammar. There is

Prestigious: Hugh Jackman was a former student at the prestigious Knox Grammar. There is no suggestion he was abused. Source: Supplied

In his opening statement on Monday, Mr Lloyd said five teachers at Knox in Wahroonga on Sydney’s north shore were convicted of sex offences against students. There would be allegations of abuse by a further three teachers who were never charged, he said.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will examine the response of the Uniting Church and Knox between 1970 and 2012 to concerns raised about inappropriate conduct by a number of teachers towards students at the school.

Evidence has been given that paedophiles were allowed to continue working at Knox even after a string of complaints and some witnesses claimed there was a paedophile ring at the school.

Geoffrey Watson SC, representing Knox Grammar School, said the school humbly and sincerely apologised for its failings.

“It apologises to all of those students who were damaged by these events. It apologises to the parents of those students and the other members of their families,” he said.

DISTURBING DETAILS

One former student Scott Ashton, 44 told the commission he was nine when he went to the prestigious school. From the start he was abused “openly and brazenly” by teacher Barrie Stewart.

Mr Ashton gave evidence on Tuesday and said he remembers bleeding from his rectum when Stewart used his finger to molest him.

Some of the abuse happened at dimly-lit music rehearsals where Stewart also abused other boys.

In 2009 Stewart was convicted of five counts of indecent assault and two counts of sexual assault. He was given a suspended sentence.

Lives ruined: Former student Scott Ashton with friend Gretel Pinniger (left) and lawyer L

Lives ruined: Former student Scott Ashton with friend Gretel Pinniger (left) and lawyer Leigh Johnson (right). Source: News Corp Australia

Mr Ashton also told of depression, confusion and substance abuse since leaving Knox. He ended up working in the sex industry.

He said he was already fragile when he arrived at Knox as his two-year-old brother had been killed after they were both hit by a car at a pedestrian crossing. The other students beat him up and tried to get him to say he was responsible for his brother’s death

Mr Ashton was too distraught to read his own statement to the commission. It was read instead by his friend, Gretel Pinniger, also known as the high profile Sydney dominatrix Madame Lash.

Mr Ashton was also deeply confused by the attitude at the school where all were expected to pay tribute to an art teacher Bruce Barrett who had died young.

Mr Ashton said Barrett was a “notorious molester” but the school put up memorial gates at the back entrance to the Wahroonga school in his honour and bearing the inscription: “He touched us all”.

Another witness, Coryn Tambling, said he was abused by Craig Treloar in 1984 when he was at Knox. He said the teacher showed him and other boys pornographic videos one of which was a “homosexual gang bang involving teenage boys”.

Shocking allegations of abuse at prestigious boys school Knox Grammar.

Shocking allegations of abuse at prestigious boys school Knox Grammar. Source: Supplied

The teacher would reassure the boys and tell them it was OK to be homosexual, he said.

“Treloar also told me he was part of a group in Kings Cross that made these movies and he would secure me a part in a movie if I wanted.” He said he showed the boys business receipts from the Kings Cross company.

Treloar was sentenced to four and a half years in jail, with two years non-parole in 2009 and is now out. He will give evidence at this royal commission hearing.

MAN IN A BALACLAVA

Counsel for the commission David Lloyd, said witnesses would give evidence that a number of boys in one of the boarding houses were abused by a man in a Knox tracksuit and a balaclava.

One witness will say he awoke one morning when he was in year 8 to find the “balaclava man” sexually assaulting him.

Mr Lloyd said that although the person’s face was concealed by a balaclava, a number of the boys in the dormitory believed it was Christopher Fotis.

The school investigated and the boys were later told the “balaclava man” was a young Asian man who had been arrested by police.

Mr Lloyd said there was no evidence to suggest the NSW Police were ever notified of the incident, either as a break-and-enter or as an assault.

He also said “despite the paucity of contemporaneous documents it is anticipated that there will be evidence that senior people at Knox knew about the allegations of abuse” at the time.

Man wearing a balaclava and Knox tracksuit allegedly abused boys at Knox. Picture: Troy S

Man wearing a balaclava and Knox tracksuit allegedly abused boys at Knox. Picture: Troy Snook Source: News Corp Australia

LIVES RUINED

A former teacher at Knox Grammar broke down as he laid the blame for his son’s ill health and early death squarely on the school he once respected.

John Rentoul, whose son David died aged 44 after a series of illnesses, said he only found out in 2009 that his son had been abused by teacher Barrie Stewart.

Dr Rentoul only found out about the abuse when David, who was at the school in the late 1970s, was giving evidence against Stewart.

“I was shocked and outraged when David told us of the abuse,” said Dr Rentoul, who taught at the school from 1969 to 1980. He became emotional as he told how his son revealed he felt terribly ashamed and guilty because Stewart was a family friend and this led him to hide the abuse for 30 years.

Former Knox teacher Barrie Stewart at the Hornsby local court.

Former Knox teacher Barrie Stewart at the Hornsby local court. Source: News Limited

“I absolutely believe that the extreme stress, guilt and shame David suffered as a result of the abuse directly lead to his health issues and also resulted in his marital problems.” He said his son’s immune system was compromised by prolonged and sustained periods of post traumatic stress and he could not fight a lung infection which led to organ failure.

Dr Rentoul said the family had welcomed Stewart as an excellent teacher and arranged for him to give David piano lessons.

He said they believed the commission should ensure that “institutions such as Knox be held accountable for failing to protect its students against sexual predators”.

Dr Rentoul also said “private schools are more susceptible to instances of sexual abuse because of more opportunities for the development of close relationships between teachers and students during extra-curricular activities, and because of the prevalence of boarding establishments”.

Another mother also told of the impacts of the abuse on her son, who has been given the pseudonym ATS. Her son started at the school in 2002 when he was 10 years old.

She said her son was very happy for the first term but then changed — he became quiet and withdrawn. He refused to talk to his parents, became angry and hostile and self-harmed before being hospitalised after a serious suicide attempt.

When he was 14, her son told a psychiatrist that he had been abused by former teacher Craig Treloar, who used to invite boys to his room and offer them ginger beer. Her son would later say things to her like “’Treloar tried it on lots and lots of times, but only got it once’”.

Counsel Assist David Lloyd at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child

Counsel Assist David Lloyd at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing into Knox Grammar School. Photo Jeremy Piper/ Oculi Source: News Corp Australia

She said she took this to mean that Treloar was constantly sexually harassing her son.

When ATS was 16 he was offered a professional rugby contract with Gordon Rugby Club, but he could not go through with it.

ATS, now 22, lives in Canada — he cannot bear to live in Sydney, she said.

“Words can’t express the enormity of the daily pain experienced by ATS or myself and his family,” she said. The strain led to her marriage breakdown.

She said the experience had been horrific, terrifying and heart-wrenching.

“As a mother I have hopes and dreams for my children. My dreams for ATS were stripped down to mere survival.”

Another witness who used the pseudonym ARY said students could not talk about the abuse because if they did they were seen as weak and considered as everyone’s “bitch”.

He said that during his time at the school he observed systemic bullying by teachers and by students of other students.

He blamed the culture at the school on the headmaster for 30 years Ian Paterson.

“Paterson and his rule dragged the school through a dark age that it should never had had, particularly as a Christian institution,” he said.

HEADMASTER NICKNAMED ‘SNAKE’

The inquiry heard that the autocratic style of a headmaster nicknamed “Snake” at Knox made it possible for teachers to take advantage of and prey on students.

A man using the pseudonym ARY said the governance style of Ian Paterson, headmaster at Knox for 30 years, made students fearful of reporting sex abuse by teachers.

ARY boarded at the school from Year 7 in 1974 and was there for four years. He was indecently assaulted by science teacher Roger James when he was 14. James was convicted and given a suspended sentence.

ARY and other former students told the sex abuse royal commission on Monday there was a culture of cover-up at the prestigious Wahroonga school.

Witnesses also accused the school of engendering a culture of homophobia with one saying he felt the school tried to force him out because he was gay.

ARY said James was a popular teacher, who was considered eccentric, smoked cigars in his office and the playground and was known to have alcohol in his office. He befriended ARY and stayed with his family, assaulting him during one stay.

ARY said he could not tell his parents who were paying for his expensive education. He also feared a backlash at school.

“In the boarding school if you were accused of a homosexual act you would never live it down,” he said.

 Knox Grammar School students leaving the school at Wahroonga in Sydney.

Knox Grammar School students at Wahroonga in Sydney. Source: News Corp Australia

ARY said because of the Knox experience he was severely and incurably homophobic, even though he knew it was illogical.

He said Dr Paterson’s “autocratic style of governance” contributed to the “Knox culture which conditioned students to be fearful of reporting inappropriate conduct, and to be accepting of such behaviour by teachers.” It also allowed “teachers to take advantage of, and prey upon, students,” he said.

It was widely known by students that James, music teacher Barrie Stewart and Adrian Nesbitt — three of five teachers who pleaded guilty to indecent acts — were “overly hands-on with boys,” he said.

“I cannot believe that Paterson and other long term staff had no idea that sexual abuse was happening at Knox.” But the culture stopped teachers from speaking up.

“Everyone was expected to keep up the reputation of Knox,” he said.

Former assistant headmaster John Rentoul became upset as he told how his son David revealed he was molested by Stewart in the late 1970s.

“I believe the school was more interested in protecting the reputation of Knox than ensuring the safety and welfare of its students,” Dr Rentoul said.

A former student using the pseudonym ATQ said when he told another teacher that Knox was a “paedophile ring” he was told, “you can’t say that”. ATQ was 16 when he was groomed and abused by a housemaster.

Justice Coate and Commissioner Atkinson at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Respon

Justice Coate and Commissioner Atkinson at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Picture: Jeremy Piper/ Oculi Source: News Corp Australia

Matthew O’Neal, who was abused by music teacher Barrie Stewart, said he was surprised to discover the teacher was still employed there 15 years later.

In a statement read to a royal commission hearing, Mr O’Neal, said when his brother started at the school in 1990, Stewart was still there.

“A gay paedophile in a boys school is like a kid in a candy shop. He should never have been working there,” Mr O’Neal said.

He said he went to the school when his younger brother was starting and he recalled a comment Stewart made to his mother. “I recall Stewart saying ‘Matthew is better looking than (his brother)’,” he said.

Mr O’Neal said he was relieved because it made him think at least he would not be interested in abusing his brother. He said Knox had done absolutely nothing to help him.

“They have not offered counselling, support, compensation, nothing”.

The commission heard that despite several internal inquiries there was no evidence Dr Paterson contacted the police.

Dr Paterson, headmaster at Knox from 1969 to 1998 will give evidence, probably next week.

Geoffrey Watson SC, representing Knox Grammar School, said the school humbly and sincerely apologised for its failings.

“It apologises to all of those students who were damaged by these events. It apologises to the parents of those students and the other members of their families,” he said.

CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS

Counsel for the commission David Lloyd said Knox, which was established in 1924 by the Presbyterian Church, had five boarding houses supervised by resident masters in the 1980s.

During that time there didn’t appear to be any formal process for employing someone who wanted to be a resident master.

“The evidence will disclose that at least one of the resident masters employed in around 1986, a Mr Chris Fotis, had criminal convictions for more than one offence at the time he was employed,” he said. The nature of the offence has no yet been disclosed. Mr Fotis was due to give evidence later in the hearing.

Former teacher, Craig Treloar, who admitted showing pornography to students in the 1980s continued teaching there until he was arrested for sex abuse more than 20 years later.

Mr Treloar thought he’d be sacked but was instead allowed to pick the timing of his six-month suspension. After returning from his suspension at the start of 1989, Treloar remained at the school until his arrest for child abuse in 2009.

He was sentenced to a minimum two years jail in 2010 for abusing boys at the school, but has also denied forcing his victims into sexual acts.

On Wednesday, he told the royal commission that, after admitting to showing porn to students in 1987, he was suspended from teaching for six months.

Treloar asked headmaster Ian Paterson if his suspension could be delayed — a request Treloar said was brought to the school council, which allowed him to start at the beginning of 1988 and to take off the last six months of the year.

The commission has heard Treloar admitted showing boys heterosexual porn, but evidence he also showed them videos depicting bestiality and paedophilia went undiscovered because the school held no investigation.

Five teachers pleaded guilty to indecent acts. Picture: Troy Snook

Five teachers pleaded guilty to indecent acts. Picture: Troy Snook Source: News Corp Australia

During his appearance at the commission, Treloar described his criminal charges of indecent assault as “letting boys touch me”.

“Do you have any self-awareness of how offensive it is to say that the boys wanted to touch you and you let them?” asked Peter Skinner, counsel representing three victims of sexual abuse. “You forced them to touch you. That’s the truth, isn’t it?” he continued.

“No, I didn’t force them to touch me,” Treloar replied.

Treloar, a Knox old boy who left in 1977 before returning to teach in 1982, told the commission he wasn’t asked for references when he applied to work as a resident master at a boarding home for year seven boys.

The former head of the Knox Preparatory School, Michael Jenkinson, told the commission Treloar’s status as an old boy was valued when he was interviewed for the boarding house job.

After he became aware of the porn, he and Dr Paterson concluded Treloar was immature.

“The only explanation we could give is that he’s just being a show off, of the level of his immaturity,” Mr Jenkinson said. After returning from his six-month suspension, Treloar was removed from the boarding house.

FILES DISAPPEARED

The inquiry heard that the files of students who made complaints of sexual abuse against teachers had disappeared.

David Lloyd, counsel assisting the commission, told the hearing Ian Paterson, who was headmaster between 1969 and 1998, will give evidence he kept documents recording the allegations — and the school’s response — in a black folder in his office.

But when the folder was inspected by Mr Paterson’s successor it became apparent a “number of files of students who made complaints of abuse have gone missing, without apparent explanation”.

Mr Lloyd said the commission will consider whether the documents were “deliberately destroyed in order to eliminate evidence which might adversely affect the school”.

The inquiry would also hear detailed reports were prepared after serious allegations were made against staffer Adrian Nisbett. Nisbett pleaded guilty to assaulting three boys in 1976 and 1986 and received a suspended sentence in 2010.

A duty manager at the school, Stuart Pearson, conducted an extensive investigation and found Nisbett had targeted “post-pubescent boys between 13 and 15 who excelled athletically as opposed to academically”. He recommended Nisbett be removed but there was no record of a response to his report.

Mr Nisbett was given a position as assistant to the headmaster, which he held until 1999, during which time he had access to student files.

He was then appointed to the role of Director of Students and aspects of the role included him providing pastoral care to pupils. There were further complaints and in 2003 Knox appointed an investigator, who carried out inquiries under the supervision of the Ombudsman.

The school accepted the investigator’s findings and informed the Commissioner for Children and Young People.

No mention was made of the NSW Police and the Ombudsman’s office did not pursue Knox, Mr Lloyd told the hearing.

Damien Vance, another teacher, was later given a glowing reference.

Vance was asked to leave Knox in 1989 because the parents of a boy he abused were coming to the school. When he left, Dr Paterson gave Vance a letter of service which he used to get a job in a school in Victoria. He continued to teach until a court ordered him to stay away from all schools two decades later.

Damian Vance, former Knox Grammar teacher who was convicted of inciting an act of indecen

Damian Vance, former Knox Grammar teacher who was convicted of inciting an act of indecency. Picture: Bradley Hunter Source: News Corp Australia

When the hearing was announced current headmaster John Weeks wrote to old boys saying the sex abuse incidents had been widely publicised in 2009 and Knox had “always accepted its responsibility in this matter”.

Mr Weeks also said Knox has a most comprehensive child protection policy covering staff selection and training, student awareness and support structures.


26/02/15

Knox Grammar teacher suspected of hiding under boy’s bed with balaclava, sexually assaulting him

A former teacher at the prestigious Knox Grammar School in Sydney was suspected of wearing a balaclava as he hid under a boy’s bed and inappropriately touched him, the royal commission into child sexual abuse has heard.

The commission heard details of the alleged assault, which was said to have occurred in the late 1980s, from Dr Timothy Hawkes, who was a former Knox Grammar boarding house master and is now the current headmaster at Kings School at Parramatta.

Dr Hawkes said he was alerted to what became known as the “balaclava man” incident when he responded to what was believed to be an intruder about 5:00am.

“This was just a bizarre, extraordinary and extremely worrying and even frightening event,” Dr Hawkes told the hearing.

The teenager, known as ARN, had allegedly been assaulted as he slept.

“[ARN] told me that a man in a balaclava had run his hand on the inside of his leg and up towards his genitals,” Dr Hawkes said.

“He had woken with a start, a shout, and that the man had run off.”

Dr Hawkes said he believed the boy when he was told about the incident and immediately alerted the headmaster, Doctor Ian Paterson.

“We needed action to be taken because we had somebody running around the school with or without a balaclava, sexually interfering with boys,” Dr Hawkes said.

Dr Hawkes told the hearing he did not report the matter to the police because the school hierarchy meant that it would have become the responsibility of the headmaster or his assistant, who was a recently retired police officer.

“I didn’t believe it was my place to do that,” Dr Hawkes said.

“I had every confidence that the matter would be dealt with by a very experienced headmaster.

“There was absolutely no question in my mind that I fully expected the police to be notified because it was a serious offence. And I was desperate to make sure that this person was caught because I did not want that happening again to any of my boys.”

Dr Hawkes reacted angrily to a question from counsel assisting that suggested his priority was to protect the school’s reputation.

“I would totally reject that comment and find it offensive,” Dr Hawkes said.

“I had particularly no motivation to have, to in a sense, protect the school. That would never cross my mind and to suggest so I find utterly offensive.”

In the months after the assault, Dr Hawkes said some students suspected two of his colleagues.

“There was increased speculation that the intruder may well have been somebody inside,” Dr Hawkes said.

“There were two that were talked about in equal degrees of likelihood and those were Mr Fotis and Mr Vance.”

A warrant was issued for the arrest of former Knox Grammar teacher Christopher Fotis, who failed to appear at the hearing on Tuesday.

In his opening statement, Counsel Assisting David Lloyd revealed Damien Vance was later convicted of one count of category four sexual assault and released on a good behaviour bond.

Mr Lloyd said on Monday that “although the person’s face was concealed by a balaclava, a number of the boys in the dormitory believed that the offender was Christopher Fotis, one of the resident masters in MacNeil House at the time”.

“The basis of that belief was that the offender had the same build as Mr Fotis and Mr Fotis had, before lights out on the evening before the assault, said to ARN that he had a surprise in store for him that night,” Mr Lloyd said.

Mr Fotis later resigned from the school “after being arrested for masturbating in his car while parked outside a school”, Mr Lloyd said on Monday.

The hearing before Justice Jennifer Coate and Commissioner Bob Atkinson continues.

The inquiry in Sydney continues.

Paul Wilkinson and his lover, Kylie Labouchardiere exchanged more than 23,000 SMS messages, then he killed her


March 11, 2012

Paul Wilkinson and his lover exchanged more than 23,000 SMS messages in the four months of their affair. He used the last ones to lure her to a meeting where he killed her to save his marriage. Michael Duffy explores one of our strangest murderers.

Kylie Labouchardiere.Kylie Labouchardiere.

THE affair between Paul Wilkinson and Kylie Labouchardiere began in late 2003, not long after he was a patient at Sutherland Hospital, where she was a nurse’s aide.

He was 27 years old, four years older than her, and both were cheating on their spouses.

Wilkinson lured Kylie by pretending to be doing important undercover work in the police force – in fact, he was an Aboriginal community liaison officer.

He had a rich fantasy life and often lied to attract people who were gullible, like Kylie. Owing to a troubled childhood, she had grown up to be someone who, in the words of her sister Leanne, ”just couldn’t hear the alarm bells ringing”.

She had failed to become pregnant with her husband of one year, navy sailor Sean Labouchardiere, and was looking for excitement.

Kylie was able to spend time with Wilkinson because her husband was at sea. Wilkinson got away from his wife, Julie Thurecht, by fabricating death threats to his family and insisting Julie and their infant son stay with her parents, for their own safety.

Paul Wilkinson and Julie Thurecht.
Paul Wilkinson and Julie Thurecht.

Before long he and Kylie were exchanging 184 calls and text messages a day and in early 2004 she was head over heels in love and demanding he leave his wife to be with her. He refused on the grounds that he was devoted to his son.

But on April 13 Kylie learnt she was pregnant and she increased the pressure.

Kylie disappeared on April 28, 2004. When police checked her phone records they discovered 28,836 texts and calls between the pair in the previous four months. They also saw – by looking at the locations of the mobile phone towers she had been near when she sent texts – that on the day she disappeared, she had travelled from her home at Erina to Sutherland railway station, near Wilkinson’s home. His phone records showed he had left home not long after 8.15pm and driven to Sutherland, in time to meet her train.

After that, there was no more phone communication between them and Kylie’s phone was not used again.

It was clear from this text pattern that Wilkinson had almost certainly killed Kylie but police had no other evidence. A crime scene and her body have never been found. Police began to tap Wilkinson’s phone and recorded a series of bizarre texts. These increased after he went into the Police Integrity Commission and announced he had been forced to help Geoff Lowe, a police sergeant, kill Kylie in the Royal National Park. Wilkinson hated Lowe, who had nothing to do with Kylie’s death.

In the end, Wilkinson sent police to five different places in search of Kylie’s body, at a cost of more than $200,000. At times he seemed to be aware police would be monitoring his text messages to friends, taunting them with pieces of false information such as: ”The following [grave location] is HALK co-ordinates 2 a location 26E 29N in the event of death & only death a cousin will ring u with the otha half.”

In 2006, police still didn’t have enough to convict Wilkinson, so an undercover officer tried to befriend him by pretending he was making a film about police corruption and offered to pay for information about where, according to Wilkinson, Lowe had buried Kylie. This produced no results, although Wilkinson did text the officer one day: ”If I may ask a favour, may receive $2000 2day 2 escape on my return … Body location and full story u keep the agreed $15,000. Ill expose all … Im desperate chap 2 get away.”

By this time Julie had divorced Wilkinson but still kept in touch. One day she asked why he wouldn’t tell police where Kylie was buried.

He replied with his most notorious text: ”Everybody has reasons 4 hiding a crime. Mine is the family can live not knowing where and why 4 What they hav don. Call me cruel, call me nasty and YES Id agree, howeva my knowledge ISNT goin 2 b theres. … her family can live their lives in misery 4 all I care F— THEM.”

Finally, Glenn Smith and Rebekkah Craig, the detectives chasing Wilkinson, thought they had enough to charge him. They had evidence that Kylie had believed, when she went to meet Wilkinson in 2004, that they were going away to live in Dubbo.

But the first lawyer who looked at the case at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said the police case was too weak. One problem was that there was no evidence Wilkinson had really planned to go away with Kylie.

The police were shattered. The decision was due to be reviewed by a more senior lawyer and, on the Sunday before that meeting, Smith went into his office in one last desperate search for evidence. To his surprise, in the evidence locker he found a second mobile phone that had once belonged to Kylie. It had been discovered before he joined the investigation and he had never heard of it. Once he gained access to the phone, he discovered some texts she had received from Wilkinson. A week after Kylie had told him she was pregnant, he had sent her this message: ”2day and Wednesday then it’s DB [Dubbo] u and I are 2getha 4eva.”

It was the text equivalent of a smoking gun. At the meeting, the senior lawyer said to Smith, ”So why haven’t you charged him yet?”

In 2009, Paul Wilkinson was sentenced to a minimum of 24 years in jail for the murder of Kylie Labouchardiere, the sentence longer than it would have been otherwise because he had not said where she was buried.

Those familiar with the case suggest three possible reasons for the silence. One is that Wilkinson wants to feel important; another is that her body would reveal such a terrible death that his sentence would have been even longer. The third theory is that he had an accomplice and the grave might in some way identify that person – or that the accomplice moved the body after Wilkinson was arrested, so now he really doesn’t know where Kylie is. Whatever the reason, Kylie’s family continues to suffer terribly from not knowing.

Call Me Cruel, by Michael Duffy, is published by Allen & Unwin, $29.99.

Court Judgements here

R v Wilkinson (No. 5) [2009] NSWSC 432 (22 May 2009)

R v Wilkinson (No. 4) [2009] NSWSC 323 (21 April 2009)

R v Wilkinson (No. 3) [2009] NSWSC 293 (1 April 2009)

R v Wilkinson (No. 2) [2008] NSWSC 1432 (19 December 2008)

v Wilkinson [2008] NSWSC 1237 (13 October 2008)

 

Live baiting on Four Corners-greyhound racing -Life bans and prosecutions to follow

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Many more about to be exposed, it makes me ask this question…

IF they had any honour and respect for their loved ones (people ,not dogs or animals they have proven that) who are about to be shamed, they would step up and say I fucked up! I got caught up whatever. The earlier participants speak up the better they will be received.

Otherwise, this is how it will be, little kids who loved their daddy, uncle, grandpa in photos with winners will grow to be disgusted. The public and punters etc are outraged but these tossers have their very own families and grand kids to answer to. WHY grandpa???????  is being asked all over Australia

update 20/02/15 Well done WA but is this retrospective?otherwise you will catch nobody going forward. There are thousands of rabbits free that were doomed to die alive a few days ago

WA imposes life ban, $50k fine for greyhound industry live bait offenders

Anyone found to be involved in the practice of live baiting in the greyhound industry will be banned from the sport for life, under tough new rules announced by Racing and Wagering WA.

The industry has been embroiled in a live baiting scandal in the eastern states but there is no clear evidence of the practice in WA.

Racing and Wagering WA said offenders involved in live baiting will face a minimum 10-year disqualification and $50,000 fine, in addition to a life ban from the sport.

Previously the penalty was a 12-month disqualification from the industry.

General manager Denis Borovica said offenders would not be able to participate in greyhound racing in any registered capacity for life.

“We felt that it would more appropriately reflect the zero tolerance we have for offenders by having a penalty provision that prescribes a period of not less than 10 years disqualification and a fine of $50,000 for any person found guilty of an offence involving live game,” he said.

“So effectively what the penalty means is that for 10 years you’re unable to set foot on the racecourse and after that you become a member of the public again, but you’ll only be a member of the public you will not be a participant of the racing industry again.”

The State Government said WA now has the harshest penalties for animal cruelty in the country.

latest 19/02/15

The entire board of Greyhound Racing NSW has been dismissed following revelations of widespread live baiting within the industry, the New South Wales Government says.

The board’s powers have been referred to interim chief executive officer and head of the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, Paul Newson.

NSW Racing Minister Troy Grant said he dismissed the board because his government wanted to restore the integrity of the industry.

“They have agreed with me that the community has lost confidence in the industry, and we now need the clear air in order to reform and reshape the industry,” he said.


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To those highlighted (and those pending, you can’t delete every pic online)  in the gallery. Stop trying to threaten me via email etc or any other way you like because NOTHING will be removed. It does not work that way anymore…

The PIG/RABBIT/POSSUM is out of the bag and talking And I keep every instance of contact via communication, email, mobile, social media etc for safe keeping.

ROGUE TRAINERS GALLERY (added to daily)

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THIS IS trainer deborah arnold
DEBORAH ARNOLD -PRESIDENT of the United Queensland Greyhounds Association and a prominent trainer and breeder, owns kennels at 14 Wotan road, Churchable, Qld

“Um… If they do I don’t know about it and I don’t really want to know about it. Um, but yeah, so this is the…It’s cruel. Yeah. You know, it’s not…No, it’s not the done thing.”

Tom Noble I am ashamed

Tom Noble I am ashamed

TOM NOBLE, TRAINER, owner/operator of a popular break-in centre on Wotan Road, owner/operator of a popular break-in centre on Wotan Road, Churchable

“Yeah, one with no muzzle: that was $100. That was $50 there to kill the pig. They’re $50 each, them c**ts.”

(Footage of RSPCA inspectors at Tom Noble’s training track)

INSPECTOR: So have you ever used pigs? Have you ever been on this property and used pigs in the past?
TOM NOBLE: No, I haven’t.
INSPECTOR: Never?

REG KAY: 3 Greyhound of the Year titles and the “2008 Australian trainer of the year”

TONY MCCABE, TRAINER,

JAMES HARDING, TRAINER

MICHAEL CHAPMAN, TRAINER

GREG STELLA , TRAINER

STEPHEN SHERWELL, TRAINER

GERRI CRISCI, TRAINER

ANTHONY HESS, TRAINER

STEVEN ARNOLD, TRAINER

MICK EMERY, TRAINER

SAMANTHA ROBERTS, TRAINER
NSW

Liar, trainer and live baiter John Thompson

Liar, trainer and live baiter John Thompson

JOHN THOMPSON, TRAINER, Shannon Brook, NSW

“What people have got to realise: it’s like anything you do. You’ve got to come out of the old days into the new days. With the welfare of greyhounds now, your biggest factor is, is that it, it doesn’t happen that easy any more”

 

ZEKE KADIR, TRAINER break-in Centre, Wilshire Park, Londonderry, NSW

ZEKE KADIR, TRAINER break-in Centre, Wilshire Park, Londonderry, NSW

ZEKE KADIR, TRAINER break-in Centre, Wilshire Park, Londonderry, NSW
(The rabbits are tied to a hand-pushed lure controlled by Zeke Kadir, dragged along the ground at speed, pursued by dogs in so-called training.)

trainer Harry Sarkis

trainer Harry Sarkis

HARRY SARKIS, TRAINER, so many questions, read all about the luxury kennels built by TAFE and more read here

http://www.australianracinggreyhound.com/australian-greyhound-racing/new-south-wales-greyhound-racing/harry-sarkis-called-to-icac-over-tafe-fraud-inquiry/21203

(In a further blow to the industry, champion Londonderry trainer Harry Sarkis has been suspended pending an inquiry into vials of banned substances found at his kennels during an inspection.

Sarkis has trained champion dogs for more than 20 years, including Tenthill Doll and Kristy’s Charity, and reportedly paid $800,000 for Brett Lee at the end of its career.)

IAN MORGAN, TRAINER, The trainer was caught removing the possum’s fur and flesh from its mouth. He’s blooding one of his up-and-coming dogs, Cee Cee Quoted.Four days later, we caught Ian Morgan leaving his western Sydney home with Cee Cee Quoted, bound for an afternoon race meet in Newcastle.

JOHN CAUCHI, TRAINER, Box Hill
(footage of Cauchi swinging a live rabbit before a greyhound as it attacks it)

BRUCE CARR,  TRAINER,  has been suspended after GRNSW removed four live rabbits from his property.

JOHN O’BRIENTRAINER has admitted keeping eight live European rabbits in cages on his Congewai property, but denied any involvement in live baiting after  explosive evidence of systemic  cheating uncovered by ABC’s Four Corners program.

Mr O’Brien, a licensed trainer based west of Cessnock, was immediately stood down on Thursday after officers from Greyhound Racing NSW raided his property and found eight live European rabbits.

His property was raided the same week as five registered trainers and operators in western Sydney who were targeted by RSPCA NSW officers over live baiting.

Mr O’Brien stressed he had no intention of live baiting the rabbits,   saying he kept them to use for ‘‘finish-on-lure’’ trials, where a humanely killed rabbit is attached to the arm of the lure as incentive for the greyhound to chase.

‘‘How I do it is I get bush rabbits, wild rabbits, and I break their neck and remove their head and everything else, the intestines and stomach and the dead rabbits go on the lure,’’ he said.

‘‘My only problem was I kept the bunnies alive, a bunny out of the freezer can come out quite wet and cold and if you put it in the microwave then it can fall apart.

‘‘I was silly, but fresh is best, once you put a frozen rabbit on the lure,  the dogs are not that interested, they show more interest if they [rabbits] have just been gutted or have a bit of blood on them.

‘‘They only need it once, the dog at least has to know there is something on the lure.  It is a 100% difference in how they run, something cold on the lure coming out of the fridge is nothing to them.’’

VIC

BOB SMITH, Greyhound Racing Victoria’s (GRV) former integrity and racing operations manager 

the state’s former second in charge of greyhound racing, can be seen in the footage taken at the Tooradin trial track south-east of Melbourne.

Smith has been serving on a GRV steering committee and his involvement casts serious doubt over the regulator’s claims of integrity.

ANDREW MILLS, TRAINER the former deputy chief steward for Greyhound Racing Victoria, now the regulator’s chief racing grader for the entire state

STUART MILLS A SUCCESSFUL TRAINER AND OWNER-OPERATOR OF TOORADIN no more (Large)

STUART MILLS A SUCCESSFUL TRAINER AND OWNER-OPERATOR OF TOORADIN no more (Large)

STUART MILLS, A SUCCESSFUL TRAINER AND OWNER/OPERATOR OF TOORADIN, a GRV-approved and licensed trial track.

“Yeah, look, I think the, the live baiting and, and that has certainly been clamped down on in the last five years, um, and it’s cleaned right up.”
Early the next morning, we paid Stuart Mills a visit.

(To Stuart Mills) Caro Meldrum-Hanna from Four Corners. How are you?
STUART MILLS: Yeah, not bad.
CARO MELDRUM-HANNA (to Stuart Mills): We’re just here to ask you a couple of questions.
CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: A clearly shaken Stuart Mills maintained his denials.
(To Stuart Mills) Have you been live baiting here, Stuart?
STUART MILLS: No.
CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: Why do you think they were here yesterday?
STUART MILLS: You ask them that.
CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: Did you?
STUART MILLS: Yeah.
CARO MELDRUM-HANNA: And what did they say?

Mills gets told to shut up by someone off screen and walks away

PAUL ANDERTON, TRAINER, and former steward for Greyhound Racing Victoria.

NEVILLE KING, TRAINER, and the president of Cranbourne Racing Club

DENNIS DEAN, TRAINER,

DARREN MCDONALD, PREMIER TRAINER, a Two-time Australian Greyhound Trainer of the Year; more than $4 million in prize money.

(It’s the 18th of November, 2014. Darren McDonald, dressed in a white t-shirt, attends Tooradin, carrying a hessian sack. A tiny, pink piglet is lifted out, tied down, its little legs kicking.As the mechanical lure starts up, McDonald and handler Chris Connelly appear, two greyhounds straining on leads. As they near the camera, muzzles can be made out on each dog.After two laps, the muzzles are removed. The piglet can be heard squealing as it’s mauled to death off-camera. Seventy-two hours later, Darren McDonald and his star dogs are at the annual Greyhound Melbourne Cup, the richest night on the racing calendar.)

Trainer of the Year – Darren McDonald...What he should be saying

Trainer of the Year – Darren McDonald…What he should be saying

Live possums, rabbits, piglets  and other small animals are being used as live lures in training and secret trials. Some of the biggest names in greyhound racing will be shamed tonight on Four Corners. What the governing bodies could not do within their multi billion dollar industry, an animal welfare group could. On a shoestring budget they were able to discover in a few weeks. The dirty secret the hold industry knows about and ignores.Pathetic, sad, and will disgust most Aussies.

It makes a joke of this page they boast

http://www.greyhoundracingthefacts.com/


NSW and Victorian industry awards nights set down for Friday have been postponed, as has an awards night in Queensland.

GRV has resolved to suspend any greyhound trained and/or owned by the 10 persons suspended by the board, on Friday, February 13, in relation to live baiting. The dogs will reportedly not be able to race until investigations into the allegations are completed.

GRV MOVES TO SUSPEND GREYHOUNDS

17/02/2015

On the advice of the Racing Integrity Commissioner, the board of Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) has resolved to suspend any greyhound trained and/or owned by the ten persons suspended by the board, on Friday 13 February, in relation to live baiting. This suspension will continue until the Racing Integrity Commissioner and GRV have concluded their investigations into these serious allegations.

update 17/02/15

Live baiting claims a shock: racing chief Really, 5 years in the job and your shocked, you should be bloody sacked. It is common knowledge if the industry and EVERYONE turned a blind eye for decades

VICTORIA’S racing integrity commissioner believes the illegal practice of live baiting is isolated in the greyhound industry.

SAL Perna says the allegations of live baiting aired in an ABC report were a shock and he was only aware of one instance, which was disproved, in his five years in the job.

MrPerna says the extent of the practice isn’t known. “My guess is that it is isolated but I really don’t know yet,” he told reporters on Tuesday. He says he will investigate the extent of the problem.


The State Government has promised to crack down on the industry, with Racing Minister Martin Pakula labelling the live baiting practice “barbaric, abhorrent and illegal”.

RSPCA chief Dr Liz Walker said she was “stunned” Greyhound Racing Victoria’s stewards did not discover the practice, which was instead exposed by a small team of Animals Australia activists.

More than 70 greyhound trainers have been implicated in the scandal, with at least 20 people suspended from the industry across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

The ABC’s Four Corners program last night aired videos showing small animals squealing as they were flung around training tracks as bait.

The footage showed dogs released to chase a possum as it was flung around a racing track 26 times at high speed until it was left hanging by its spinal cord.

One well-known interstate trainer was recorded excitedly telling others to smash a baby possum’s head in.

Other injured animals were stuffed into small boxes.

Among those implicated has been two-time Australian Greyhound Trainer of the Year Darren McDonald, who was allegedly caught on camera carrying a piglet inside a sack into the Tooradin property where dogs then mauled the animal.

Also shamed was successful Victorian trainer Stuart Mills, the brother of Andrew Mills, who was a former deputy chief steward for Greyhound Racing Victoria and now the regulator’s chief racing grader.

Another former Greyhound Racing Victoria steward, Paul Aderton, who policed the industry in his former role, has also allegedly been caught training his dogs with live bait.

Mr Pakula promised to stamp out the cruel and illegal ­training technique.

On Monday night he announced he would be cancelling Greyhound Racing Victoria’s Industry Award Night, which was due to take place this Friday.


This is from a jurno at http://www.australianracinggreyhound.com overnight

ABC live-baiting investigation draws blood

Written By 9 hours ago

Queensland wrap-up:

  • Prominent greyhound breeder and trainer and president of the United Queensland Greyhound Association Deborah Arnold allowed her 70 greyhound puppies and racing dogs at her property ‘Dessa Downes’ in Churchable to be filmed by Four Corners. “The kennels have to be RSPCA QLD-approved,” said Arnold. “It definitely meets the requirements.” When questioned on the practice of live-baiting, Arnold denied any knowledge of it: “If they do I don’t know about it, and I don’t really want to know about it.”
  • Undercover footage from Animal Liberation Queensland and Animals Australia earlier filmed a training track in Churchable, Queensland, across the road from Arnold’s property. On film, it captures Arnold and her dog Dorak Des chasing a live pig on the lure while Arnold asks “what’s the quickest been today” before being informed her dog is.Arnold is later asked by Four Corners what mantra is at the forefront of greyhound racing in 2015, to which she states, “animal welfare.”
  • Professor of animal behaviour and animal welfare science Paul McGreavy offered his comments on the matter of live-baiting coming from a decade of research into the breed, insisting there are breeds far more dangerous and that greyhounds are simply “chasing to catch, not to kill”. He emphasises the dogs “love racing, they love moving around that speed – they’ll be getting off on this,” and that they “are so sedentary when they’re not exposed to this stimuli.”
  • Animal Liberation Queensland investigator Hailey Cotton reveals the first tip-off regarding live-baiting in Churchable was passed to her: “Their words to me were ‘something really bad is going on there,’ and they said ‘it smells like death’”.
  • Undercover cameras were placed in the property of prominent Queensland trainer Tom Noble, a celebrated, award-winning greyhound trainer with almost 50 years in the game. His break-in centre is the epicenter of greyhound training in Queensland, and the live baiting footage of Deborah Arnold’s dog occurred on his track.
  • More than 40 owners, trainers and handlers are recorded on camera while live baiting occurs on Tom Noble’s property. “These people are leading trainers, they’re training their dogs with these methods,” said Cotton. “They’re then going on to win races using these methods, so the whole integrity of greyhound racing is really brought into question here.”
  • Footage confirms four times a week, piglets and later possums are flung around Noble’s track 26 times at high speed. The piglet is shown squealing with a man on the camera swearing at it, and one or two dogs are let loose to chase, grab and maul the possum while it’s still alive. Some 56 minutes later, the lure stops and the possum is snapped in half, the corpse still attached by its spinal cord, with the men in the footage making light of the situation.
  • Discussion of dumping dead dogs is captured on film, leading the investigation to ask NSW greyhound trainer John Thompson about the issue. Animal Liberation Australia links him as the man in the footage telling others to smash a baby possum’s head in so the live baiting of its mother can begin. “They ripped the baby from the mother, they tied the mother on the lure, and they then stick the baby’s head in the sand to kill it while its mother is watching on, all the time laughing and joking on how amusing it is,” said Hailey Cotton.

Victoria wrap-up:

  • In mid-November 2014, Lyn White of Animals Australia simultaneously led an investigation at the Tooradin Trial Track in Victoria after a tip-off. Considered to be in the heart of greyhound racing territory in the state, the track is run by owner operator Stuart Mills, whose brother is Andrew Mills, former deputy chief steward for Greyhound Racing Victoria and now the regulator’s chief racing grader for the entire state.
  • Lyn White reveals 17 people were captured live baiting the first time undercover footage was recorded. The first trainer identified is former steward of Greyhound Racing Victoria Paul Anderton, who arrives as Stuart Mills attaches a lure on a wooden plank with leather straps, before returning with a live rabbit and stretching it out tightly as he buckles it down flat. The rabbit is shown returning five minutes later, mauled but still alive and twitching in agony. “It tells me this is a practice that has been going for an acceptable level to trainers for years and years,” White said.
  • Anderton’s dogs went on to win three races days after being captured on the footage in Tooradin. President of Cranbourne Racing Club Neville King is also filmed on camera live baiting two days before Christmas at Tooradin.
  • Trainer Dennis Dean and a young girl watch as live rabbits are leashed and thrown to the dogs to kill. CEO of Greyhound Australasia Scott Parker was questioned on his thoughts of live-baiting behaviour during the revelations of the footage and the discovery of children being brought to watch while it occurs: “I think that’s ridiculous and abhorrent. I don’t support that at all. I’m not aware of it, and never heard of it, live baiting is illegal as well as being wrong and against the rules of greyhound racing.”
  • Footage of dogs on the Tooradin track is shown, encouraged to savagely kill several rabbits, which are skinned or tied as they maul them.
  • Former steward at Greyhound Racing Victoria Amanda Hill says there was a problem inside GRV regarding regulators failing to pick up and follow on rumours of live-baiting in the state: “Lack of resources, lack of funds, lack of knowledge, or plainly, they don’t want to accept that it’s a possibility.” She believes some trainers are “doing it to try and get an edge. It’s probably harder to get caught live baiting than what it is to using performance-enhancing drugs.”
  • Hill left GRV in 2004 and became the Chair of Stewards in Greyhound Racing Tasmania, where she was able to do better in stopping live baiting. In 2008, Hill caught a female trainer red-handed live baiting a possum. Possum carcasses were found all over the track, and it remains one of two cases in the past decade where a steward has followed through and successfully convicted a live baiter.
  • Hill identifies two-time Australian greyhound trainer of the year Darren McDonald as one of the figures caught on film three days before the 2014 Melbourne Cup, engaging in live baiting at Tooradin alongside handler Chris Connelly. He is shown on camera carrying a sack with a tiny pink piglet before placing it on the lure. The two men remove the muzzles on their dogs after two laps and the dogs maul the piglet, heard squealing as it dies off-camera. McDonald has since transferred all of his greyhounds to his wife’s name.

New South Wales wrap-up:

  • McDonald’s top sprinter Keybow is revealed by Four Corners to have been broken in across the border in NSW at Londonderry by Zeke Kadir.
  • Four Corners received a tip-off within the industry that Kadir was rumoured to be the best live baiter within the state, and that it occurred at his property as part of his training purposes. “He mentioned that he broke (in) Keybow, and he talked about how he gets live rabbits from a person he knows, and he gets about 30 a week,” a private investigator for Four Corners confirms.
  • Footage shows Zeke Kadir using the rabbits tied to a hand-pushed lure, controlled by Kadir. They’re dragged along the ground at speed pursued by dogs in training. On January 12, 2015, the footage captures Ian Morgan arriving at the venue for a private session, where a native possum is strung to the lure struggling to escape as two muzzled greyhounds attempt to bite the possum. Four minutes later, the muzzles come off and the cry is captured off-screen of the possum’s demise. “I am fearful at how widespread this is, and the consequences for literally thousands of animals each year,” said Lyn White.
  • Morgan is later seen removing the dead possum from his greyhound, Cee Cee Quoted. Four days later, Four Corners catches him leaving his Western Sydney home bound for an afternoon race meet in Newcastle, where Cee Cee Quoted places third. John Cauchi, of Box Hill, was also caught practising live baiting by hand.

Aftermath:

  • Four Corners notes requests for interviews with the regulators in all three states caught live-baiting were declined, deferring comment to CEO of Greyhounds Australasia Scott Parker. “I don’t suspect this is a systemic problem at all,” Parker said. “It’s illegal, abhorrent, and totally rejected by the industry.”
  • When asked about how three tracks have been confirmed to have had live baiting occurring on site that have not been detected by regulators, Parker surmises “our controlling bodies do a great job, but it’s a big industry and a lot of these facilities are a long, long way away from Sydney and Melbourne and Brisbane – and that’s why compliance officers are employed to get out there.”
  • In Queensland, RSPCA caught the live-baiters at Tom Noble’s establishment during their follow-up raids and saved a live piglet tied in a sack moments away from being bound and baited. Tom Noble was on-site, as well as his staff James Draws and Tony McCabe. They denied any wrong-doing despite being caught on film. RSPCA eventually found a second piglet hidden inside a shed on the property, wounded from a previous live-baiting session.
  • At Tooradin, Stuart Mills was watched closely, but no animals were caught on-site. Four Corners visited him the next day of the raids, and he’s clearly shaken as he maintains his denials about live-baiting.
  • Zeke Kadir’s property was visited, but he refused to answer Four Corners’ reporters on live baiting.
  • Four Corners’ investigations are now a criminal matter, with state charges imminent.

Post program:

  • In Victoria, GRV chair Peter Caillard has welcomed a $6 million government investment for investigative resources for GRV to help detect and prevent practises such as live-baiting from occurring in the future. In addition, GRV have also announced that dead animals will no longer be allowed to assist in the training of greyhounds. “The use of live animals is already outlawed. GRV will also outlaw the use of dead animals in greyhound training whether on private premises or registered training premises,” Mr Caillard said in a press release. Caillard has also agreed to cancel the Greyhound Industry Awards night, which was to be held this Friday night, after instruction from MP Martin Pakula. The Darren McDonald-trained Sweet It Is was the frontrunner to take out the highest honour, 2014 Victorian Greyhound of the Year.
  • In New South Wales, GRNSW have announced that a taskforce has been established to investigate the extent of the live-baiting practices in the state. The taskforce will be led by former High Court justice and eminent legal practitioner, the Hon. Michael McHugh AC, QC. The taskforce will look into the training methods used in NSW and will arrange for trial tracks and training facilities to be monitored. It is also set to examine whether GRNSW and relevant agencies such as the RSPCA NSW have the necessary powers to correctly investigate animal cruelty allegations. “We need to stamp out live baiting once and for all. Not only is it illegal but it is sickening and we are disgusted with what we have witnessed on air,” GRNSW CEO Brent Hogan said in a press release. “GRNSW welcomes Michael McHugh’s acceptance to head this taskforce and is committed to working closely with him and the taskforce as quickly as we can. The taskforce will help ensure that live baiting and other acts of animal cruelty identified in NSW are eradicated as quickly as possible.”

 

This sort of thing is what the sport keeps hidden away, But it gets worse

This sort of thing is what the sport keeps hidden away, But it gets worse

A must watch tonight on the ABC on Four Corners 8.30pm

Greyhound racing: Live baiting revelations on Four Corners to be ‘extremely damaging’ to greyhound racing industry

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-16/evidence-of-live-baiting-in-greyhound-racing/6121688

Mon 16 Feb 2015, 9:47am

Australia’s greyhound racing industry is in turmoil ahead of an explosive Four Corners report, set to air tonight, that reveals conclusive evidence of live baiting.

Live baiting is the practice of using small live animals in secret greyhound training sessions.

It has been banned and criminalised for decades, but trainers and owners across the country have been using the illegal training method in the belief that it will improve a dog’s performance.

Live baiting carries substantial financial penalties and sentences of up to five years’ imprisonment. The evidence that will be broadcast tonight on the ABC could have a massive impact on the industry.

The RSPCA, in conjunction with police in NSW, Victoria and Queensland raided five properties on Wednesday last week after the Four Corners program, in conjunction with Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland, confidentially handed over the results of its investigation into the sport to the state-based RSPCAs more than a fortnight ago.

Tonight in its exclusive report, Four Corners will reveal how trainers and owners across the country, working in concert with licensed trial track operators, are training their dogs using banned methods and engaging in illegal activity.

Make no mistake. This story will be explosive, emotive and extremely damaging to the future of this sport in Australia.

Greyhound Racing Victoria CEO Adam Wallish

This behaviour constitutes cheating under the laws of greyhound racing.

Tracking dogs and their trainers from private training facilities and on to official race meets and using undercover investigators to infiltrate the industry, the program has discovered the integrity of potentially thousands of races and millions of dollars in prize money is now in question.

Aware that the Four Corners program was set to air, Greyhound Racing NSW, Greyhound Racing Victoria, and Racing Queensland, the sport’s statutory regulators, moved to suspend more than 20 trainers, owners and trial track operators late last week.

In another attempt to pre-empt the program, on Sunday, Racing Queensland announced a $1 million taskforce to combat live baiting and other allegations of cruelty.

But the regulators’ attempts to act raise further serious questions about their ability to fulfil obligations and adequately police the sport in addition to carrying out their dual role as the sport’s promoter. Australians are now wagering a staggering $4 billion on the sport annually.

It is also revealed the illegal activities have remained undetected by the regulators, and makes it clear self-regulation has been a failure. At the same time, the evidence could prompt governments to reconsider their support and endorsement of the sport.

‘This story will be explosive’

In an internal memo written by Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) and obtained by Four Corners over the weekend, GRV’s chief executive officer Adam Wallish encouraged trainers and owners to start strategising and preparing to react publicly after the Four Corners program airs tonight.

“Make no mistake. This story will be explosive, emotive and extremely damaging to the future of this sport in Australia,” Mr Wallish wrote.

“As a group of people that love the greyhound breed we should all be shocked and outraged by the allegations in the story and prepared to fight the small minority that continue to partake in such practices jeopardising the future of the sport and indeed the future of the breed itself.”

Mr Wallish also urged the greyhound racing community to focus their anger on the wrongdoers in their sport, rather than the messenger.

“You will be emotional, you might be angry. Don’t be angry at those that attack us, regardless of their position. Be angry at those within the sport that are doing the wrong thing and undermining the values for which we stand,” he wrote.

“This time is a testing one for all of us in the industry and we need to stay resolute in our desire to exceed social standards and public expectations.

“The future of the sport and the wonderful greyhound breed necessitates it.”

Greyhound Racing Victoria has also set up a counselling telephone hotline to support those affected emotionally by the allegations. The hotline is contactable on (03) 8329 1100 and will be available from 7:30am on Tuesday morning.

The program, Making a Killing, will broadcast tonight on ABC1 at 8:30pm. Anyone with further information can contact Four Corners


Tooradin track closed after claims greyhound trainers used live bait

GREYHOUND Racing Victoria has suspended 10 people and closed the Tooradin Trial Track for alleged live baiting.

The news comes in the wake of revelations a Geelong-trained greyhound tested positive for amphetamine and methamphetamine (known as ice) after a race in Warragul on January 17.

GRV has confirmed the RSPCA is investigating the Tooradin track and Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna is involved.

GRV chief executive Adam Wallish said live baiting, where a dog is given a live animal to hunt down in the lead up to a race, was a criminal and abhorrent practice.

“The use of live bait in the training of greyhounds is disgusting and has no place in our sport.

Any person engaged in live baiting can expect to be disqualified and prosecuted. We have zero tolerance for these individuals,” Mr Wallish said.

“In accordance with GRV’s Animal Welfare Penalty Guidelines those responsible face a 10 year ban from the sport.”

Live baiting was a criminal offence punishable under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and attracted a jail term of up to two years and a fine of more than $30,000, he said.

“GRV takes matters of animal cruelty extremely seriously. Allegations of live-baiting are extremely disappointing and GRV supports the RSPCA and Victoria Police’s efforts to investigate any wrong-doing within the sport of greyhound racing,” Mr Wallish said.

A spokesperson for RSPCA Victoria confirmed it had executed warrants and conducted an inspection at a greyhound training facility in south-east Victoria.

The inspection had resulted in the launch of an investigation into greyhound training practices, she said.

Lara trainer Jenny Hunt said she was “gutted” and “bewildered” her dog Jubilea Bale tested positive to drugs, and planned to travel to Warragul to have “a look around”.

“I’ve asked all my employees and they all said they have nothing to do with it (ice),” Hunt said.

Greyhound Racing New South Wales also suspended five people and closed Sydney’s Box Hill Trial Track this week for alleged live baiting.

The RSPCA said anyone who had information about cruel or illegal practices in the greyhound industry should report it immediately by calling 9224 2222.

 


Live animals allegedly used as bait in greyhound racing

February 15, 2015

Natalie O’Brien

Greyhound racing is in the spotlight amid allegations of live baiting.Greyhound racing is in the spotlight amid allegations of live baiting. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers

More than 20 greyhound racing dog owners and trainers across NSW, Victoria and Queensland have been suspended after a series of raids which allegedly discovered the illegal use of live animals being used to bait and lure dogs.

The shock revelations come just a year after the industry regulator NSW Greyhound Racing told a parliamentary inquiry it had no evidence that such alleged crimes were occurring in the $144 million a year industry.

The inquiry’s deputy chairman and Greens MP John Kaye at the time claimed Greyhound Racing NSW had “dodged a bullet” and issues like animal welfare and the allegations of live bait had been put in the “too-hard basket”.

Late on Thursday, Greyhound Racing NSW announced it had stood down five industry participants and one licensed trainer for alleged live baiting offences and closed down the Box Hill trial track. Victorian greyhound racing authorities also announced it had suspended 10 people for allegedly using live baits at a track in Tooradin, south-west of Melbourne.

In Queensland seven trainers have been suspended after they were allegedly about to use live pigs as bait for their dog training. Racing Queensland’s General Manager of Stewarding and Integrity Operations Wade Birch said the trainers had been stood down and their greyhounds scratched from all competition pending an investigation.

“This decision was based on further information received by Racing Queensland, the substance of which required immediate action by stewards,” said Mr Birch.

The RSPCA has been involved in raids but officials refused requests for any information. A statement released by a media spokeswoman said they “had received a number of complaints regarding animal cruelty and greyhounds, these are currently under investigation”.

Fairfax Media reported in 2013 that the illegal practice of allowing animals to be killed by greyhounds as part of their racing training was still occurring in NSW.

Problems have beset the industry over decades. As far back as 1972, newspaper reports revealed that a leading greyhound trainer and industry figure were fined and narrowly escaped jail for using a possum and a rabbit for live baiting at a track in Kellyville. The magistrate at the time said their previous good behaviour had saved them from a custodial sentence.

In 2013 there were shocking revelations at the parliamentary inquiry about the barbaric act of live baiting including details about the use of guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens, kittens and possums which have had their claws and teeth removed so they can’t hurt the dogs being mauled to death in training sessions.

“I have been told ‘anything that squeals will do’,” an industry stakeholder, whose identity has been suppressed, said in a written submission to the parliamentary inquiry.

TV vet Dr Robert Zammit had also backed up the claims in his evidence to the inquiry and RSPCA NSW chief inspector David O’Shannessy said they had also received anonymous complaints but so far they had been unable to substantiate the claims. He encouraged people to come forward with information.

Dr Kaye said on Saturday that slowly public pressure is forcing Greyhound Racing NSW to admit what most people have known for decades.

“It’s clear that live baiting still occurs and that the dogs are brutalised, and rabbits, cats and possums are being ripped apart while they are still live,” said Dr Kaye.

“Greyhound Racing NSW dismissed allegations before a NSW Upper House Committee of live baiting, claiming they lacked evidence. Suddenly, they act against five participants suspected of live baiting and one trainer with live European rabbits on his premises.

“The regulatory body had been told of possums that had their teeth and claws ripped out and that then died in terror and agony, yet they failed to act until they faced the threat of media exposure,” he said.

ABC’s Four Corners program will screen a program on Monday night about greyhound racing.

Dr Kaye said the failure to crack down on live baiting by the regulatory authority for the past six years, is another reason for stripping the industry body of its animal welfare and regulatory functions.


 RESPONSES TO FOUR CORNERS

Racing Queensland’s response to Four Corners | 13 February 2015

Greyhound Racing Victoria’s response to Four Corners | 12 February 2015

Greyhound Racing NSW’s response to Four Corners

MORE INFORMATION

Participants Stood Down With Immediate Effect | Greyhound Racing, NSW | 12 February, 2015

Letter from Adam Wallish to Clarify Issues on the Animal Welfare – Penalty Guidelines | Greyhound Racing Victoria

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 | Victorian Government

Is the use of live baits and lures in greyhound racing and other dog racing illegal? | RSPCA

Own motion investigation into Greyhound Racing Victoria | Victorian Ombudsman

Legislative Council Select Committee on Greyhound Racing in New South Wales

Animal Welfare Guidelines | Greyhound Racing Victoria | 2014

Investigation into the ACT racing industry | Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission | 2011

Report on Own Motion Inquiry into Betting Activities of Racing Officials Employed by the Victorian Racing Industry | Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner | June 2012

Implementing the recommendations arising from the Review of Integrity Assurance in the Victorian Racing Industry

Animal welfare act review report and recommendations | Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries | 2013

Queensland Animal Care and Protection Act 2001

Victorian Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986

Greyhound Racing Information | Animals Australia

MEDIA

Fallout spreads as industry braces for Four Corners probe | Australian Racing Greyhound | 16 February, 2015

Stewards query Kay; some finish-on-lure trials put on hold | Australian Racing Greyhound | 16 February, 2015

Greyhound racing: Live baiting revelations on Four Corners to be ‘extremely damaging’ to industry | ABC News | 16 February, 2015

Live animals allegedly used as bait in greyhound racing | Sydney Morning Herald | 15 February, 2015

Queensland sets up taskforce as greyhound racing hit with cruelty claims | Courier Mail | 15 February, 2015

Tooradin track closed after claims greyhound trainers used live bait | Geelong Advertiser | 15 February, 2015

Victorian greyhound racing authorities suspend 10 people for allegedly using live rabbits as lures | ABC News | 14 February, 2015

Queensland legend Reg Kay denies involvement in live-baiting raid | Australian Racing Greyhound | 14 February, 2015

Greyhound owners, trainers suspended | Sydney Morning Herald | 14 February, 2015

Greyhound racing industry hounded by claims of abuse | Illawarra Mercury | 1 August, 2014

Greyhound racing industry ‘dodged a bullet’ | Sydney Morning Herald | 30 March, 2014

Greyhound inquiry by NSW Parliament: committee member and Greens MP John Kaye critical of welfare inaction | ABC News | 28 March, 2014

Logan to get new greyhound racing track, at expense of Gold Coast | Brisbane Times | 16 March, 2014

NSW greyhounds boss rejects claims of cronyism, bullying | Sydney Morning Herald | 9 February, 2014

Vets claim live animals used as bait to train greyhounds | Sydney Morning Herald | 24 November, 2013

Greyhound racing industry denies claims of widespread animal doping | ABC News | 16 October, 2013

Greyhound racing industry hit with doping, cruelty, collusion allegations | 7.30 | 16 October, 2013

The unbearable lightness of being a greyhound | The Conversation | 2 December, 2012

The quick and the dead | Background Briefing | 11 November, 2012

Allegations of doping in greyhound racing industry | 9 November 2012

Hounded to death | Sydney Morning Herald | 25 October, 2004

World’s biggest ecstasy bust: How a Google search foiled Aussie tomato tin mafia’s drug plots

Featured


Along read but a good read, and a long time coming

February 14, 2015 9:18AM

AFP drug sting

IT’S difficult to imagine that of all the hugely populated cities around the globe, it is little old Melbourne which holds the title of the site of the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

Yet it has held that distinction twice, with the first world’s biggest ecstasy bust of 1.2 tonnes being made here in 2005. That record was eclipsed when Australian Federal Police agents seized 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy pills in Melbourne in 2007.

One of the tins used in $440 million ecstasy haul. Picture: Brendan Francis

One of the tins used in $440 million ecstasy haul. Picture: Brendan Francis Source: News Corp Australia

There are two main reasons such massive amounts of ecstasy were shipped to Melbourne. The first is Australia has very strong Calabrian mafia cells in Melbourne and elsewhere and the Italian organised crime gang is one of the world’s biggest traffickers of ecstasy.

Secondly, Australians are wealthy enough to pay the world’s highest prices for ecstasy tablets — making it an attractive place to smuggle to.

Court suppression orders lifted yesterday enable the Herald Sun to reveal the inside story of the world’s biggest ecstasy bust, which involved 15 million pills hidden inside tomato tins which were shipped by the Calabrian mafia from Italy to the Melbourne docks.

This is the inside story of the world’s biggest ecstasy bust and how those responsible for importing 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy into Melbourne from Italy were brought to justice.

A POLICE sting foiled Mokbel mate Rob Karam’s plan to buy 26 tonnes of chemicals to make ice with a street value of $13 billion.

Karam — one of Crown casino’s top 200 gamblers — was secretly recorded as he arranged to ship the chemicals to Australia and Mexico.

What Karam didn’t know was the man in Hong Kong he was negotiating the massive deal with was an undercover officer working with Australian Federal Police.

Rob Karam (left) and accomplice Fadl Maroun meet Hong Kong police undercover operative #5

Rob Karam (left) and accomplice Fadl Maroun meet Hong Kong police undercover operative #51251 Michael (right) at the Harbour Plaza Hotel, Hong Kong. Picture: Australian Federal Police surveillance image. Source: Supplied

For the first time, the Herald Sun can also reveal details today of other mind-blowingly large drug deals and the Australian Mr Bigs who are behind bars because of them.

It can do so following the lifting yesterday of multiple Supreme and County Court suppression orders.

That enables the Herald Sun to tell the full inside story on the world’s biggest ecstasy bust, which involved the AFP seizing 15 million pills hidden in tomato tins shipped from Italy to Melbourne by the Calabrian mafia.

A customs agent unpacks canned tomato tins holding tonnes of ecstasy tablets. Picture: Au

A customs agent unpacks canned tomato tins holding tonnes of ecstasy tablets. Picture: Australian Customs Service. Source: News Limited

Those details include:

  • MORE than 30 gang members have been convicted and jailed by Victorian courts for a total of almost 300 years following the 2007 seizure of the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy – which had a street value of $440 million.
  • SENIOR gang members were secretly taped plotting to murder the man they blamed for the 4.4 tonne shipment of ecstasy being seized — that man is a mate of underworld identity Mick Gatto.
  • BLACK Uhlans bikie gang founder John Higgs was secretly recorded saying he wanted to wrap Gatto’s mate in carpet and “throw him in the river” as punishment for the ecstasy shipment being grabbed by police.
John Higgs. Picture: Australian Federal Police

John Higgs. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

Frank Madafferi. Picture: Australian Federal Police

Frank Madafferi. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

THE drug operation was nearly blown before enough evidence was gathered to charge all those involved as AFP surveillance officers came within seconds of having to reveal themselves to physically stop gang members from murdering a second man they had fallen out with.

THAT intended victim didn’t come out into the Reggio Calabria Club car park in Parkville, where the gang members were waiting, so the execution attempt was aborted without the surveillance officers having to expose themselves.

MELBOURNE-based Calabrian Mafioso Frank Madafferi was a major drug dealer within months of former Federal Minister Amanda Vanstone overturning a decision to deport him.

AFP agents secretly taped Madafferi making death threats after he won his nine-year legal battle to stay in Australia and angrily claiming he was going to chop fellow drug dealer Pino Varallo “into little pieces”.

MADAFFERI was selling drugs provided to him by the Calabrian mafia gang charged by the AFP in 2008 over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

PASQUALE Barbaro, the Griffith-based boss of the Calabrian mafia gang behind the 4.4 tonne ecstasy importation, is the son of Francesco “Little Trees” Barbaro, one of the men named in the Woodward royal commission report as being an influential member of the Griffith mafia cell which murdered anti-drug campaigner Donald Mackay in 1977.

BARBARO was secretly bugged by the AFP telling fellow drug dealer Gratian Bran he had just warned Karam he was going to kill him if he didn’t pay what he owed for drugs supplied to him.

CONSPIRACY to murder charges against Barbaro and Madafferi have been dropped.

ONE of Australia’s most wanted men — Graham Potter — will still face trial over his alleged botched attempts to execute two of Barbaro’s enemies for Barbaro, and face trial over his alleged drug trafficking for Barbaro gang members.

Pasquale Barbaro. Picture: Australian Federal Police

Pasquale Barbaro. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

Carmelo Falanga. Picture: Australian Federal Police

Carmelo Falanga. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

The massive drugs shipment had a street value of $440 million. Picture: Australian Federa

The massive drugs shipment had a street value of $440 million. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

SENIOR Barbaro drug gang member and South Australian Italian organised crime boss Carmelo Falanga fired four shots at police as they raided his meth lab and was found to be in possession of a fully automatic submachine gun and a .357 revolver.

A JOINT police and spy agency taskforce set up by the Australian Crime Commission helped police in Europe arrest 27 members of the Belgian syndicate believed to have made and sold the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy to the Italy-based Calabrian mafia cell which shipped the pills from Naples to Barbaro’s gang in Melbourne.

The huge haul of ecstasy following the seizure. Picture: Australian Federal Police

The huge haul of ecstasy following the seizure. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

KARAM — who was convicted drug boss Tony Mokbel’s shipping industry inside man — was on bail and on trial over the previous world record seizure in Melbourne of 1.2 tonnes of ecstasy in 2005 at the time he was helping organise the 4.4 tonne importation in 2007.

ORGANISED crime gangs in Mexico were lined up by Karam to receive 20 tonnes of chemicals from China to turn into ice for probable sale in Australia.

KARAM ordered a further six tonnes of ice-making chemicals to be shipped directly to Melbourne.

Calabria, in the toe of southern Italy, is the world headquarters of the Italian organised crime gang ‘Ndrangheta.

It is simply called the mafia by most in Australia, or the Calabrian mafia to differentiate it from the Sicilian mafia.

Details of Karam’s sentencing and involvement in the Calabrian mafia’s 4.4 tonne ecstasy importation in 2007, a 150kg shipment of cocaine in 2008 and his plan to import tonnes of drug making chemicals into Australia were suppressed until yesterday.

Rob Karam

Rob Karam Source: Supplied

Tony Mokbel

Tony Mokbel Source: HeraldSun

Karam, 48, of Derby St, Kew, was jailed for 19 years and ordered to serve a minimum of 15 over his major role in the 4.4 tonne ecstasy importation.

He is awaiting sentencing over other drug charges he was convicted of in November last year.

Karam’s final trial over the planned ice importation was discontinued last month to save the cost of another trial. A guilty verdict in that trial would probably not have resulted in his sentence being increased by much.

The 19-year jail term ends his charmed life of beating drug charges.

Karam was arrested with Mokbel in 2001 and charged over the importation of 550kg of ephedrine, which could make amphetamines worth $2 billion.

He was also charged in 2001 over a three tonne hashish shipment worth $147 million, which Victoria Police believe was organised and financed by Mokbel in partnership with murdered underworld heavyweights Lewis Moran and Graham “The Munster” Kinniburgh.

The trafficking and possession charges against Lebanese-born Karam over the ephedrine seizure were dropped in 2005 and he was found not guilty over the three tonne hash haul.

Graham Kinniburgh

Graham Kinniburgh Source: HeraldSun

Lewis Moran

Lewis Moran Source: News Limited

Karam was also cleared of conspiring with others to import five million ecstasy tablets into Melbourne in 2005.

The Herald Sun became aware through Italian police contacts in early 2007 that the Calabrian mafia was involved in shipping huge amounts of ecstasy to Melbourne.

It agreed to an AFP request not to reveal the Calabrian mafia connection to either the first 1.2 tonne shipment or the second 4.4 tonne one.

The AFP feared publicising the Calabrian connection would tip off the Italians that they were under investigation as the prime suspects.

Now that all the court cases are over and the suppression orders have been lifted the Herald Sun is able to reveal details of the two world’s biggest ecstasy busts for the first time without jeopardising any investigations.

The 2005 ectasy bust was worth an estimated $250 million. The drugs were found hidden in

The 2005 ectasy bust was worth an estimated $250 million. The drugs were found hidden in a shipment of ceramic tiles from Italy aboard the cargo ship Matilda. Source: News Corp Australia

Evidence suggests the 1.2 tonne shipment was going to be distributed partly through Victoria’s fruit and vegetable industry, which has a strong Calabrian mafia presence.

When the AFP swooped as the gang members were unloading the 1.2 tonne ecstasy shipment in 2005 they found the pills were being repacked into hundreds of the type of lettuce boxes used in Victorian markets.

How a Google search brought the whole game unstuck

The 2007 world’s biggest ecstasy bust wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful if a female freight forwarding manager in Melbourne had done what the crooks expected would happen after the container was unloaded.

It’s likely those arrested over the 4.4 tonne shipment would have been the lowly labourers sent by the Barbaro gang to pick up and unpack the pills.

But luck was with AFP that day in 2007.

The manager not doing as expected enabled the AFP to later charge 33 people and dismantle one of Australia’s biggest drug syndicates.

The syndicate was relying on their little sleight of hand with a legitimate company’s pho

The syndicate was relying on their little sleight of hand with a legitimate company’s phone number would go un-noticed. Picture: File. Source: News Corp Australia

In what was one of the largest AFP operation ever, gang members were watched by surveillance officers for 10,000 hours, 185,215 telephone conversations between gang members were secretly recorded and AFP agents and prosecutors put in 287,000 hours of work to crush the syndicate.

All that might not have happened had the freight forwarding manager in Melbourne done as the syndicate expected.

It was that manager’s job to ring a Melbourne company, which her paperwork said had imported a container load of tomato tins from Italy, to let them know it was ready for collection.

While the company was legitimate — and had no idea its name was being used by criminals to import 15 million ecstasy tablets — the phone number on the fake documents was linked to the drug syndicate.

The drugs were professionally packaged in Italy. Picture: Australian Federal Police

The drugs were professionally packaged in Italy. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

Had the manager rung that number a gang member would have answered, pretended to be from the legitimate company and arranged for the container to be picked up without the company ever knowing its name had been used.

What neither the manager nor the crooks knew at that stage was that Customs had checked the container on arrival, discovered the ecstasy and alerted the AFP.

The AFP would have followed the container after it was picked up and would have swooped on whoever started unpacking it.

It’s more than likely those doing the unloading would be way down in the gang hierarchy.

If those criminal underlings didn’t dob in those above them — and people who inform on the Calabrian mafia often have very short lives — then the Mr Bigs responsible for organising the massive ecstasy shipment could easily have escaped detection.

What AFP forensic officers discovered in thousands of tomato tins. Picture: Australian Fe

What AFP forensic officers discovered in thousands of tomato tins. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

So while the AFP was always going to get the 15 million pills and some arrests, it might never have got the drug bosses.

That one manager in the Melbourne freight forwarding company office changed the course of the investigation by doing something totally unexpected.

Instead of reading the paperwork to get the phone number of the company which had supposedly imported the tomatoes, she Googled its name and rang the number on her computer screen rather than the number on the fake paperwork.

The tomato tins looked the goods. Picture: Brendan Francis

The tomato tins looked the goods. Picture: Brendan Francis Source: News Corp Australia

That meant she got through to the real company rather than the crooks.

Alarm bells started to ring when the company denied it had imported any tomatoes.

The manager needed to return the container and as the company she contacted said the tomatoes didn’t belong to it she arranged for the container to be unloaded so the empty container could be returned for re-use while she arranged storage for the tomatoes.

As the AFP was watching the container it had no choice but to move once it started being emptied by unsuspecting staff from the legitimate freight forwarding company.

As it turned the freight forwarding company manager did the AFP a favour by accidentally ringing the legitimate company.

Once the authorities were on the trail, a massive surveillance operation swung into gear.

Once the authorities were on the trail, a massive surveillance operation swung into gear. Pasquale Barbaro and Jan Visser pictured on Queen St in Melbourne during the sting. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

Doing so meant the AFP ended up being able to arrest far more senior members of the gang than it would have had she rung the crooks.

It was efforts by the criminals to find out if the container had been seized — and subsequent drug deals to raise money to pay a $10 million debt owed to a European organised crime gang for the lost drugs — that led to them being careless and saying and doing things they normally wouldn’t have done, all under the watchful eyes and ears of the AFP.

Cops twig to a ‘drug shipment gone wrong’

Conversations secretly taped by police revealed the Barbaro gang remained hopeful of obtaining the 15 million pills for months after the container arrived in Melbourne on June 28, 2007, while suspecting, but not being sure, that the ecstasy had been seized.

Most of the evidence which led to the 33 people being charged was obtained in the months after the 15 million ecstasy pills were seized, with arrests not being made over the 4.4 tonne shipment until 13 months after the container arrived in Melbourne.

That evidence included the AFP capturing text messages in which Calabrian mafia boss Pasquale Barbaro attempted to persuade a Melbourne newspaper journalist to start asking the AFP questions about the ecstasy container to try to find out if it had been seized.

Barbaro, 53, of Whites Rd, Tharbogang, near Griffith, New South Wales, wanted the journalist to establish whether police had the drugs.

If they hadn’t seized them then he was going to send his minions to collect the container and unload it.

The syndicate started to get nervous about the fate of the shipment, but it was already i

The syndicate started to get nervous about the fate of the shipment, but it was already in the hands of the authorities. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

If the journalist was able to establish the container had been seized then Barbaro wanted him to write an article saying so as publicity about the seizure would convince the European drug gang which supplied the ecstasy that the Aussie crooks hadn’t ripped them off and stolen the drugs without paying for them.

Text messages between the journalist and Barbaro provided vital evidence linking Barbaro to the container in which the 15 million ecstasy tablets had been hidden.

The Supreme Court judge who jailed Barbaro for a minimum of 30 years in 2012 made reference to Barbaro’s attempted use of the journalist.

“You were understandably concerned that the seizure of the container had not been made public,” Justice Betty King told Barbaro.

“To ensure that your European suppliers understood that you were not trying to steal the ecstasy tablets, or as it is colloquially known, ‘rip them off’ — you attempted to try to have the seizure made public.”

Justice King told the court Barbaro contacted the journalist on a number of occasions asking if he was aware of the seizure “and giving details that could be known only to those who had a complete awareness of the container and its contents, including the size of the shipment”.

“You were attempting to ensure that those to whom you were responsible for this payment overseas were fully aware that the shipment had been seized by law enforcement authorities,” Justice King told Barbaro.

On September 19, 2007, several weeks after the 4.4 tonne ecstasy shipment was seized, Barbaro sent a text to the Melbourne journalist.

It said: “Mate, I have info on a drug shipment gone wrong, will u chase it up as I’m afraid to tell police of fear they might be involved. The container number is medu 1250218 and it came in on the ship monica 2 months ago and it is 15 million ecstasy tabs in tomato tins. Why isn’t it out, it’s the biggest in history.”

Although the journalist provided no help to Barbaro, the Mafioso heavy was able to use corrupt sources on Melbourne’s docks to eventually confirm the ecstasy was almost certainly in the hands of the AFP.

It then became Barbaro’s responsibility to send $10 million in cash to the European syndicate to cover the loss.

He and his fellow gang members needed to keep drug dealing to get that $10 million and the AFP watched and listened as they did.

While some arrests were always going to be made once the 4.4 tonnes was seized in 2007, the sequence of events could easily have followed the path of the previous world’s biggest ecstasy bust — which was also in Melbourne.

The drugs hidden in a shipment of tiles from Italy aboard the cargo ship Matilda.

The drugs hidden in a shipment of tiles from Italy aboard the cargo ship Matilda. Source: News Corp Australia

That case involved the importation of five million ecstasy tablets hidden in a container of tiles which arrived on Melbourne docks from Italy in 2005.

The AFP did then what it did later in 2007 with the 4.4 tonne seizure, they took out the ecstasy tablets and replaced them with fake pills and watched to see who picked up the container and then followed the container to see who unpacked it.

While they charged six men over the 2005 bust they only got convictions against the lowly labourers who had been paid by the gang to unload the ecstasy.

Among those acquitted over the 2005 world’s biggest ecstasy bust was drug boss Tony Mokbel’s mate Rob Karam.

Karam wasn’t so lucky over the next world’s biggest ecstasy bust in 2007. He was one of the 32 people so far convicted in connection with the 4.4 tonne ecstasy shipment.

Bugged conversations suggest that some of the players convicted over the 4.4 tonne shipment were also involved in the earlier 1.2 tonne ecstasy shipment, including Pasquale Barbaro.

The major players got away with that one because AFP agents had to swoop as soon as the 1.2 tonne shipment started being unloaded so as to avoid the loss of physical evidence — but in doing so they were limited to arresting only the minor players involved in unpacking the container.

Those further up the criminal food chain — like Barbaro — traditionally stay several steps removed from the actual drugs so as to avoid detection.

John Higgs, Rob Karam, Pasquale Barbaro and Saverio Zirilli. Picture: Australian Federal

John Higgs, Rob Karam, Pasquale Barbaro and Saverio Zirilli. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

But after Barbaro lost the 4.4 tonne shipment in 2007 he and other senior gang members, in their desperation to earn the $10 million they needed to quickly pay their debt to the European organised crime syndicate, became much more hands on.

They talked more on telephones, had more face to face meetings and physically handled drugs — providing crucial evidence for the AFP as they did so.

Barbaro was caught on tape telling a fellow gang member he was doing things that he hadn’t done since he was learning the criminal ropes as a teenager.

The container containing the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy arrived in Melbourne aboard the MV Monica on June 28, 2007, after having left Naples on May 25.

The shipment was sent from Naples.

The shipment was sent from Naples. Source: News Limited

It was addressed to a legitimate Melbourne food importing company, which had no idea the gang was using fake documents to make it look as though it had ordered the tomatoes.

Those fake documents included the phone number the freight forwarding company was supposed to ring once the container had cleared Customs.

That number was connected to the drug syndicate. The plan was that once the number was called the gang would arrange pick-up and delivery of the container.

The gang expected a simple pickup for massive profit.

The gang expected a simple pickup for massive profit. Source: News Corp Australia

The Melbourne-based food importer was chosen by the gang because it was a company which did import food from Europe, making it less likely a container addressed to it would be considered suspicious and subjected to a search by Customs in Melbourne.

Karam, using his knowledge as a former shipping freight forwarder, was probably responsible for choosing which company to use and arranging the false paperwork.

As mentioned earlier, the freight forwarding company in Melbourne didn’t ring the crooks so the crooks started to panic and make frantic attempts to try to find out what had happened to the container they knew had arrived.

The drug syndicate picked a company that was less likely to set off alarm bells with Cust

The drug syndicate picked a company that was less likely to set off alarm bells with Customs. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

While neither the AFP nor Customs were aware of a specific container of drugs, they had intelligence provided by a number of overseas agencies that a shipment of drugs was thought to have left Europe for Melbourne.

That led to Customs singling out a large number of containers to be searched.

They struck gold when they opened up container MEDU1250218 and cut the top off one of the sealed tomato tins to find it full of ecstasy tablets stamped with various logos, including a kangaroo.

The AFP was alerted and the mammoth job of opening up 607 boxes containing 3642 tins, removing the contents and repacking them with fake drugs began — with the intention of then watching the container and allowing it to be picked up and delivered so they could nab whoever did so.

Some tins were weighed down with gravel to ensure the total shipment weighed the same as

Some tins were weighed down with gravel to ensure the total shipment weighed the same as a legitimate one. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

The pills had been professionally packed, probably at a cannery in Italy. Some of the tins actually contained tomatoes, others were packed with gravel and 3034 of them were full of ecstasy pills. The tins of gravel were included so the total weight of the consignment would match what a genuine shipment of 3642 tins of tomatoes would weigh.

The total number of ecstasy tablets packed into the tomato tins was 15,193,798 and they weighed 4.423 tonnes.

AFP agents involved in the unpacking were stunned at the size of the bust — as was the then AFP Commissioner, Mick Keelty, when he got the phone call telling him his Melbourne agents had just made the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

Then Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty

Then Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty Source: News Limited

Saverio Zirilli. Picture: Australian Federal Police

Saverio Zirilli. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

They knew, just about for certain, that Karam would be involved, as would Barbaro.

Phone taps and physical surveillance of them led to others in the group being identified.

The AFP knew Barbaro and his cousin and right-hand man, Saverio Zirilli, had travelled from Griffith and booked into Melbourne’s Pacific International Suites in Little Bourke St, shortly before the ecstasy container was due to arrive.

Senior South Australian mafia figure Carmelo Falanga also travelled to Melbourne at the same time.

The three Mafioso had regular meeting with Karam and Higgs in coming days as they tried to find out if it was safe to pick up the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy.

There were tense days in the Pacific International Suites as they waited for news.

AFP agents sensed the tension as they monitored every conversation in the room the crooks were sharing.

The crew waiting for news at the Pacific International. Picture: Australian Federal Polic

The crew waiting for news at the Pacific International. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

Carmelo Falanga travelled to Melbourne for the expected shipment. Picture: Australian Fed

Carmelo Falanga travelled to Melbourne for the expected shipment. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

Higgs’s lack of mobile phone knowledge resulted in some short-lived jubilation that the container had arrived, hadn’t been seized and was safe to collect.

On July 4, 2007, several days after the container was unloaded at the Melbourne docks, Higgs sent a cryptic, yet optimistic, early morning text to Barbaro and Falanga.

Barbaro was heard in the bugged hotel room to say Higgs’s message was the best news for “a f…ing long time”.

Higgs claimed that he needed to “come back to earth”; such was his level of excitement at receiving the text.

The cause for Higgs’s optimism was only fully revealed that afternoon.

Higgs joined Zirilli and Griffith-based Barbaro gang member Pasquale Sergi in room 609 at the Pacific International and told them he had received a text message overnight saying “delivery successful”.

Higgs wrongly concluded the sender was Karam, whose job it was to find out if the pills had arrived and whether or not they had been detected by Customs or police.

The message led to Higgs concluding the much awaited clearance enabling safe access to the container and its drugs had been confirmed by Karam and it was that “green light” message that Higgs had earlier conveyed to Barbaro.

As the AFP listened to Higgs telling Zirilli and Sergi (Barbaro was out at the time) about the text message they could tell Zirilli and Higgs were extremely buoyant, with Zirilli describing the news as “beautiful”, but Sergi initially remained silent.

Zirilli spoke about setting in train the next phase, getting two gang underlings to take a truck to pick up the ecstasy-filled container, possibly as early as the following morning.

The crew held out hope the massive haul was still theirs. Picture: Australian Federal Pol

The crew held out hope the massive haul was still theirs. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

An excited Higgs was heard talking about persons emptying the container and the gang finally getting their hands on the drugs.

At this point, Sergi, a man more versed in text messaging than Higgs, proffered his unpopular opinion regarding the source of the message Barbaro, Zirilli and Higgs were getting so positively worked up about.

He suggested the message had not been sent by Karam but that it was merely a service provider auto-generated message confirming the successful delivery of an earlier text sent by Higgs to Karam.

Sergi’s theory was initially discounted by Higgs and Zirilli.

It was ultimately accepted as being correct — but only after Higgs met Karam that night and established the “delivery successful” text was indeed from the phone provider and not Karam and it related to the successful delivery of a text message and not the successful delivery of 15 million ecstasy tablets.

That was one of the stuff-ups by syndicate members that prompted senior gang member Jan Visser to come up with one a one-liner that caused much laughter among the AFP agents who were secretly listening to his conversations.

“It’s hard to fly like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys,” Visser was recorded saying.

The bugged conversations recorded in room 609 by the AFP provided valuable evidence as to who was connected to the 4.4 tonne ecstasy shipment.

Pasquale Barbaro, Saverio Zirilli, Severino Scarponi and Domenico Barbaro pictured in Car

Pasquale Barbaro, Saverio Zirilli, Severino Scarponi and Domenico Barbaro pictured in Carlton after a visit to Brunetti’s cafe. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

Telling the mafia big boys the bad news

It wasn’t until July 14, 2007, that Barbaro decided to prepare to tell his Calabrian mafia bosses in Italy the bad news that it appeared the ecstasy had been seized.

He flew to Calabria on July 21, after being secretly recorded saying he needed “to lick their wounds”. While he was in Italy he spoke to Zirilli in calls intercepted by the AFP.

Barbaro told Zirilli he had been copping “the heat, right left and centre”.

In a later call to Zirilli, Barbaro said the suppliers of the ecstasy in Italy were all “starving here, and I’m to blame”.

Barbaro came back to Australia after a month with the news that if the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy was lost then he and fellow drug importation financier Falanga each had to send $5 million to the European syndicate to compensate for the loss.

A flurry of drug activity by Barbaro and his gang in the following months to get money to pay that debt provided yet more evidence for the AFP, with two breakthroughs in particular providing a mountain of vital information.

What’s that again? An AFP detective monitoring telephone surveillance. Picture: Brendan F

What’s that again? An AFP detective monitoring telephone surveillance. Picture: Brendan Francis Source: News Corp Australia

The first was when Griffith-based Barbaro, 53, decided he was spending so much time in Melbourne that it made sense to rent a property.

The married father of four got his Melbourne mistress, Sharon Ropa, who was 37 when she was arrested in 2008, to rent a unit in Little Palmerston St, Carlton.

Sharon Ropa, following her arrest. Picture: Australian Federal Police.

Sharon Ropa, following her arrest. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

Guns found buried in the garden of Barbaro’s Carlton flat. Picture: Australian Federal Po

Guns found buried in the garden of Barbaro’s Carlton flat. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

It became Barbaro and Ropa’s love nest, as well as an office, a meeting place for fellow gang members and a source of evidence for the AFP.

The AFP secretly installed cameras and listening devices in the apartment and what they captured proved crucial to convicting those involved in the ecstasy importation, other drug dealing and money laundering offences.

So much cash was being brought into the apartment that Ropa bought a money counting machine, which the AFP got footage of her using.

One good piece of evidence was obtained when the AFP raided the property about 4am on August 8, 2008.

On the bedside table next to the bed Barbaro and a naked Ropa were sharing at the time was a piece of paper with the number of the container containing the 150kg of cocaine written on it.

Also seized by police from the love nest were more than 2500 ecstasy tablets, 30 mobile phones, $181,000 in cash and several notebooks outlining payments made for drugs. They also discovered guns buried in the back garden.

The second breakthrough was when AFP agents picked up from various bugged conversations that several of the leading players were planning to meet at the George Graham Park at Wunghnu, near Shepparton, on April 16, 2008.

Pasquale Barbaro, Rob Karam and Sharon Ropa thought they were safe to chat at a Shepparto

Pasquale Barbaro, Rob Karam and Sharon Ropa thought they were safe to chat at a Shepparton park, but AFP operatives were listening and watching. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

Each of the gang members was very careful when talking and texting over the many mobile phones they used, making it difficult to use what they often said in code as evidence against them.

What the AFP was hoping was the gang members would feel much safer talking openly about their drug operations while sitting at a bench table in a remote park 204km north of Melbourne.

What the crooks didn’t know was the AFP quickly arranged to be able to listen to what was said in the park.

Conversations were captured between Barbaro, senior Barbaro gang member Gratian Bran and Mr X, who can’t be identified but who is a member of the European gang who was sent to Australia to ensure the Barbaro syndicate paid the $10 million it owed the Calabrian mafia in Italy for the loss of the ecstasy.

The AFP was able to record the following conversation about ecstasy tablets.

BARBARO: “But you told me six thousand.”

MR X: “Yeah, but that’s from the pure MDMA and this is already mixed so that it’s about a hundred, a hundred pills.”

BARBARO: “The ones I bought were already mixed with the binder and everything. I made then thousand out of one kilo”

MR X: “Yeah, from the pure MDMA”

BARBARO: “Fifteen kilos would be …”

BRAN: “That’s half a million dollars. I’ve got seven and a half kilos for $300,000.”

BARBARO: “The ones in Sydney, they were going and I told them I said sell them at, I said, for even $7.50 just to get rid of them. Just sell them just to get the ball over the line, that’s the first 250,000.”

AFP agents watched as Pasquale Barbaro left the table and walked through the park to his

AFP agents watched as Pasquale Barbaro left the table and walked through the park to his Mazda ute, opened the door, leant into the cabin, and returned to the table with something in his hand. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

As the three drug dealers sat around a picnic table they talked openly about their criminal activity, much to the delight of the AFP agents secretly monitoring the bugged conversation.

Mr X talked about his recent discussions with the European syndicate which supplied the ecstasy. He said the Europeans were still concerned that money owed by the Barbaro syndicate had not yet been paid.

Barbaro told Mr X that Karam still owed about $600,000 and expressed frustration at Karam’s constant stalling over the debt.

Rob Karam owed big money. Picture: Australian Federal Police.

Rob Karam owed big money. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

Bran chipped in that Karam should be punished for his conduct and told Mr X and Barbaro he knew people in Melbourne who could assist in recovering the money Karam owed.

Barbaro stated that he had already warned Karam that he would pay at the end of the day “either in money, or with his life.”

Some of those involved in the 4.4 tonne ecstasy importation — including Barbaro and Karam — also imported 150kg of cocaine into Melbourne on July 24, 2008, just a couple of weeks before the AFP made arrests in 2008 in connection with the 2007 ecstasy shipment and subsequent crimes.

They used corrupt dock workers in Panama to put three bags containing the cocaine in with bags of Columbian coffee beans in a container which was on its way to Melbourne.

The plan was to use corrupt dock workers in Melbourne to open the container just after it was unloaded, remove the three bags of cocaine and reseal the container with a genuine seal, which the workers in Panama had placed inside the container with the cocaine.

The cocaine shipment hidden in a container from Panama. Picture: Australian Federal Polic

The cocaine shipment hidden in a container from Panama. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

This type of drug smuggling is known as the piggyback method, which involves drugs being placed in a legitimate cargo with the intention of the container being accessed and the drugs removed prior to delivery to the actual legitimate importer of the other goods in the container.

The plan failed as Customs officers picked up irregularities when they X-rayed the container and later found the cocaine during a search.

Karam’s Melbourne dock contacts were so good he knew Customs had found the cocaine within minutes of them discovering it.

He was caught on tape giving Barbaro the bad news and a police surveillance camera hidden in Barbaro’s Carlton apartment recorded Barbaro putting his head in his hands.

Ever the attentive and fawning lover, Sharon Ropa was caught on tape asking Barbaro if he wanted a drink of “water, coke, anything else?”

Barbaro replied: “Coke, we’d love 150kgs of it, but you know you haven’t got it.”

Gang members also had a container of what they thought was 100kg of chemicals to make ice on the way to Melbourne from India at the time arrests were made in August 2008.

It turned out the Indian crooks had ripped them off and the chemicals they sent hidden in furniture were not what the gang had paid for and couldn’t have been used to make illegal drugs.

Fadl Maroun, after his arrest. Picture: Australian Federal Police.

Fadl Maroun, after his arrest. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

And Karam and fellow gang member Fadl Maroun were well advanced in their plans to buy tonnes of chemicals to ship to Australia and Mexico to be turned into ice.

Karam and Maroun were brought undone by some excellent undercover operatives in Hong Kong and Melbourne.

AFP agents knew from bugged telephone conversations that Karam was keen to buy tonnes of ice-making chemicals.

They set up an elaborate sting, with the help of Hong Kong police, whereby Karam became convinced he was dealing with a senior member of a Chinese organised crime gang with unlimited access to the chemicals needed to make ice.

Karam and Maroun flew to Hong Kong to meet that supposed Mr Big, who was using the name Michael, for the first time on March 13, 2008 and again for subsequent meetings on May 14 and July 2 that year.

Michael was actually an experienced Hong Kong police undercover agent.

Michael met Karam and Maroun at the Whampoa Lounge cafe, in Hong Kong’s Harbour Plaza on each of the three occasions. Every face to face meeting was secretly video and audio taped by police.

Karam and Maroun meeting 'Michael', the Hong Kong undercover officer. Picture: Australian

Karam and Maroun meeting ‘Michael’, the Hong Kong undercover officer. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

Michael was posing as a Chinese crime boss who was interested in getting ecstasy pills from Karam in exchange for supplying Karam with tonnes of drug making chemicals from China.

As a result of the Hong Kong meetings with Michael, arrangements were made for Karam to meet with a female who Michael said was his criminal contact in Melbourne.

That female was an undercover AFP agent who was using the name Rosie during the sting operation.

Two meetings later occurred between Maroun, who was acting as Karam’s intermediary, and Rosie on May 10 and August 6, 2008, at the Middle Bar and Café in Middle Park. Both meetings at outdoor tables were secretly audio and video recorded as well as physically observed by hidden AFP agents.

During the May 10 meeting, Maroun gave Rosie a quantity of ecstasy and Rosie gave him $100,000 in cash.

This drug deal had been agreed to during Karam and Maroun’s first meeting with Michael in Hong Kong on March 13, 2008, and was seen by Karam as a stepping stone to ensure Michael supplied the chemicals Karam was after.

Michael told Karam during the Hong Kong meeting they would do the ecstasy deal first and if it was successful he would turn his mind to providing the chemicals.

Doing it that way ensured that even if the AFP’s grand plan to get Karam over the conspiracy to import tonnes of chemicals failed they would at least have the Melbourne ecstasy deal to charge him with.

The Harbour Plaza Hotel in Hong Kong.

The Harbour Plaza Hotel in Hong Kong. Source: News Limited

Michael insisted in his meetings with Karam and Maroun in Hong Kong that an upfront payment of an amount equivalent to $20,000 needed to be paid as a sign of good faith and explained that such payment was required before “his people” would start production of the chemicals.

Michael and Karam and Maroun provided each other with “safe” telephone numbers that supposedly couldn’t be traced back to them and which should only be used to communicate with each other to organise the deal.

The AFP bugged those phones and retrieved incriminating text messages from them, as well as recorded conversations.

Listening devices at the first meeting between Michael and Karam and Maroun in Hong Kong caught Karam bragging to Michael about having four million ecstasy tablets in Melbourne that could be used to pay for the chemicals he wanted Michael to supply. He said they were good quality pills imported from professional laboratories in Amsterdam.

Karam told Michael he wanted liquid chemicals, rather than crystals, to make ice, and that he wanted them shipped to Italy and that the first shipment should be two tonnes.

He told Michael he wanted it to be liquid “because the avenue we have from Italy to Australia is liquid”.

Karam said he had a cook arranged to turn the liquid into ice for sale in Australia.

Keen to seal the deal, Karam promised Michael he could have a share of the profit from the first batch of ice.

He upped the ante during his second meeting with Michael in Hong Kong on May 14, 2008.

Karam said he now wanted 20 tonnes of chemicals and that he wanted it sent to Mexico instead of Italy because “they don’t even check”.

He and Michel exchanged many texts between that May 14 meeting and the third Hong Kong meeting on July 2, 2008.

The texts related to the first shipment being of five tonnes to Mexico and a bit of haggling over the price Karam needed to pay.

One of the texts from Karam to Michael said: “OK, that’s fine about the money but is the 5 ton ready to go as my people are ready to start on that now.”

Michael texted back: “Yes we will start getting that ready once we have received the agreed amount. How soon do u think u will be back up here.”

Karam replied: “I have the agreed amount with me and will pass it to you as soon as I arrive there. Trust me I will not cheat you. I promise. If the first five is ready I can come anytime. Are we able to get just a small sample of it?”

Michael was told by Karam that he wanted a total of 26 tonnes of chemicals, with 20 tonnes going to Mexico and six tonnes to Australia.

The drug ice can fetch an estimated $1m per kilogram on the streets.

The drug ice can fetch an estimated $1m per kilogram on the streets. Source: Supplied

The Australian Crime Commission puts the going rate for a single hit of ice (0.1 gram) on the streets of Melbourne at $100.

Karam’s planned importation of 26 tonnes of chemicals would have made 13 tonnes of ice with a street value of $13 billion.

Karam and Maroun flew back to Hong Kong to meet Michael again on July 2, 2008, to thrash out more details.

They discussed how Karam would provide the $20,000 to Michael to start the ball rolling.

Karam was recorded telling Michael he wanted the first batch of five tonnes of chemicals to be delivered to a factory in Mexico.

He said his chemist would fly from Australia to Mexico as soon as the chemicals arrived and would do the cook in Mexico.

“Everything is ready to start,” Karam was recorded telling Michael.

“The cook is ready. The chemist is ready, the factory is ready. Everything is there waiting.”

Karam told Michael he had 100,000 ecstasy pills in hand to pay for the chemicals.

Karam wanted to cook the drug ice in massive quantities, reminiscent of the TV series Bre

Karam wanted to cook the drug ice in massive quantities, reminiscent of the TV series Breaking Bad. Picture: AMC Source: Supplied

He also asked Michael if there was any possibility of importing guns along with the chemicals, but that the “pseudo is more important that the guns”.

Karam flew back to Australia and immediately began trying to find investors in Australia to fund the 26-tonne chemical venture — it has been one of Karam’s traits throughout his long criminal career to use other people’s money to pay for the drug shipments he organised.

He didn’t approach Barbaro or any of his gang members for cash. The 26-tonne chemical importation was a Karam frolic that Barbaro wasn’t involved in or aware of.

Karam was struggling to quickly get the funds he needed so he sent a text to Michael on July 22, 2008, apologising for the delay and claiming the “cartel war in Mexico” was making communications with his Mexican contacts difficult.

But Karam assured Michael he still wanted the tonnes of chemicals and that he hoped Michael would be patient while the Mexico hitch was being sorted out.

Michael responded with a text saying “just let me know when you are ready, but nothing can start here till we get what we agreed on”.

Maroun met Rosie at the Middle Park cafe on August 6, 2008, and gave her ecstasy tablets worth $20,000.

Karam was ecstatic when Michael texted later that day to say Rosie had confirmed she had received payment.

Michael told Karam receipt of the payment meant “my people are ready to start things right away”.

Karam didn’t stay ecstatic for long.

Armed with more than enough evidence of Karam’s involvement in the conspiracy to buy the 26 tonnes of chemicals, as well as his prominent roles in the 4.4 tonne ecstasy importation and 150kg cocaine shipment, the AFP arrested him during an early morning raid on his Kew home on August 8, 2008 — just two days after he sealed the ambitious chemical deal with Michael.

(See the footage of Maroun’s meeting with “Rosie” in the video above)

AFP detective superintendent Matt Warren — pictured in the AFP building control centre —

AFP detective superintendent Matt Warren — pictured in the AFP building control centre — led the massive operation. Picture: Brendan Francis Source: News Corp Australia

Inside the investigation: Putting the pieces of the puzzle together

AFP Detective Superintendent Matt Warren was heavily involved in the world’s biggest ecstasy bust from the start and headed up the investigation which followed it.

He told the Herald Sun it was intelligence received from the AFP liaison office in The Hague which eventually led to the June 2007 seizure of the 4.4 tonne shipment of ecstasy.

That non-specific information about large shipments of ecstasy coming to Melbourne from Italy was developed further by the AFP and Customs.

Other law enforcement agencies also received intelligence about ecstasy shipments, which was shared with the AFP.

“We were already conducting an investigation into Barbaro and Zirilli,” Det-Supt Warren said.

“We were targeting them in relation to their ongoing criminal activity.

“Separate to that, we received information from international agencies, as well as locally from our state police colleagues, about ecstasy shipments.

“We fed all of that information through Customs.

“Nothing we received would be considered to be a smoking gun that led us directly to the container containing the 4.4 tonnes.

“Customs were targeting a raft of different containers based on this fairly broad information that we received.

“The container which contained the 4.4 tonnes was subjected to searching by Customs because it fitted the profile of what the information received from various agencies suggested we should be looking for.

The AFP kept a close eye on containers when they hit the jackpot. Picture: File

The AFP kept a close eye on containers when they hit the jackpot. Picture: File Source: News Corp Australia

“That information was that there was a consignment of drugs coming to Melbourne and that it was probably coming from Europe.

“So Customs were looking at various containers.

“That diligence paid off when they opened one of the sealed tomato tins and found ecstasy pills.”

Det-Supt Warren said Customs alerted the AFP and his role then began in what became a 13-month operation before charges were laid.

He said the AFP already had Barbaro’s telephone bugged over its separate probe into his activities and Victoria Police were monitoring Higgs over other matters.

“Victoria Police had committed significant resources into investigating Higgs,” Det-Supt Warren said.

“Some of the evidence Victoria Police captured during their pursuit of Higgs was absolutely crucial in terms of the convictions we got, as was information provided by the Australian Crime Commission.”

Det-Supt Warren said Barbaro and Higgs, along with Zirilli and Karam, quickly became the prime suspects for organising the massive ecstasy importation.

“We had been working Barbaro from a surveillance point of view for months before the ecstasy shipment arrived,” Det-Supt Warren said.

“We twigged fairly quickly that it was probably Barbaro and his group, but we didn’t have any direct links so we couldn’t confirm that.

A surveillance shot of Higgs and Falanga near Nick's Spaghetti Bar in Lonsdale Street, Me

A surveillance shot of Higgs and Falanga near Nick’s Spaghetti Bar in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

“While we had nothing specifically linking him to it at that stage, the fact he and Zirilli were in Melbourne when the container arrived was a strong indication of their involvement — as was the people they met and talked with in the days before and after the container arrived, such as Higgs, Karam and .

“Before the ecstasy arrived we were targeting Barbaro in a general sense, rather than because of some specific crime we expected him to commit.

“He was chosen to be a target because of his known background in drug dealing.

“With somebody like Barbaro, it’s like working on the likes of Tony Mokbel.

“You work on them long enough and they are going to be involved in something criminal as that is there business. They are in the business of being a crook.

“We knew enough about Barbaro that if we targeted him then sooner or later he was going to lead us to criminal activity.”

What he led them to was the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

The sheer size of the haul was a logistical challenge for authorities. Picture: Australia

The sheer size of the haul was a logistical challenge for authorities. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

“The sheer size of the seizure created an enormous resourcing problem for us,” Det-Supt Warren said.

“All our seizures are processed by our forensics people. They are simply not set up to process 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy.

“They had never done a seizure of that size before, in fact, no one had as it was the world’s biggest seizure.

“So we had the investigation side of it, chasing who was responsible, but we also had to work out how we were physically going to process the drugs, how we were going to store the ecstasy.

“We didn’t have a drug vault that could handle 4.4 tonnes.

“We had to find a large area within the AFP to build a secure vault that doubled as a lab where the drugs could be processed and tested.

“Once they had been tested they needed to be destroyed, except for the few samples kept as evidence for the trials.

“Even that in itself was an enormous logistic exercise, which we had to do in a graduated process.”

Det-Supt Warren said it was an unexpected stroke of luck that the manager of the freight forwarding company in Melbourne contacted the legitimate company rather than the crooks.

“Had she rung the false number on the paperwork, instead of using Google to get the phone number of the legitimate company, she would have got through to the crooks and the crooks would have picked up the container and we would have made arrests as the substitute drugs were being unloaded,” he said.

“”Had that occurred, and had we arrested half a dozen low-level unpackers, there is no way we could have continued to not announce the seizure of 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy.

“That, potentially, would have put us in a position where we were not able to get the bigger players, the organisers.

“So, without question, the manager did us a favour by accidentally contacting the legitimate company instead of the crooks.

“It meant we couldn’t go ahead with the controlled delivery of the container — which would have involved us watching the container to see who picked it up and unpacked it — and meant instead that we started a long investigation that led us to make 33 arrests, including of those up the criminal tree that organised it.

“The size of the seizure in itself also did us a favour in that it was so big the

AFP made it its number one investigation and one of its highest priorities for a 12 month period.

“We had unlimited access to all the AFP’s resources to tackle it.”

Sharon Ropa’s every move was monitored at the Wunghnu meeting. Picture: Australian Federa

Sharon Ropa’s every move was monitored at the Wunghnu meeting. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

Det-Supt Warren said a good example of how having as much manpower and technical resources as were required helped enormously in gathering evidence that would otherwise have been missed was the bugging of the George Graham Park at Wunghnu, near Shepparton, on April 16, 2008.

Saturation physical and electronic surveillance of several key Barbaro gang members around the clock for weeks at a time produced intelligence that some of them were going to meet at the park and the reason was they were wary of talking over telephones as they feared, quite rightly, that their phones were bugged.

They figured sitting around a table in the bush would enable them to talk freely about their drug importation and trafficking plans.

That was a mistaken assumption as the AFP was able to set up to capture the ensuing conversations before the meeting took place.

The secretly taped conversations in the bugged Wunghnu park became part of the AFP’s brief of evidence against Barbaro and others.

Gang members were watched by surveillance officers for 10,000 hours and 185,215 telephone

Gang members were watched by surveillance officers for 10,000 hours and 185,215 telephone conversations between gang members were secretly recorded. Picture: Brendan Francis Source: News Corp Australia

“It was crucial evidence,” Det-Supt Warren said.

“It was a great example of what can happen when you have significant resources that enable you to firstly observe a pattern of behaviour and secondly have the people available with the necessary equipment and ability to do what was needed to be done to be in a position to monitor the conversations our intelligence told us were likely to occur in the park.

“The bugging by us of the Carlton apartment in Little Palmerston that Sharon Ropa organised for her and Barbaro was also crucial for us.

“It meant that every time Barbaro came from his home in Griffith to Melbourne we knew where he would be staying and could monitor any conversations in the Little Palmerston apartment he and Ropa shared.

“It suited Barbaro to set his girlfriend Ropa up in a place where they felt safe.

“It suited us because it became a place where Barbaro and his senior gang members would gather to discuss their criminal activity.

“Conversations we monitored in the apartment provided evidence against various gang members and also gave us leads as to what they were planning and what their movements were going to be.”

Det-Supt Warren said a number of factors, some beyond the AFP’s control, contributed to making the investigation so successful.

“It was a perfect storm of events coming together,” he said.

“There was the sheer size of the seizure, the quirk of fate that led to the controlled delivery not being successful and the crooks failing to get their hands on the drugs.

“All that meant we could commit to giving the operation whatever it needed.

“The majority of the brief of evidence against them came after the seizure of the container.

“It was their attempts to locate it, find out what had happened to it and then further drug activity to get the money to pay the debt they owed for it that gave us the evidence to charge so many of them.

“Barbaro in particular became a lot more hands on than he normally would be. Crooks of his stature usually stay well removed from the actual drug dealing so as to avoid detection.

“They have people to do the dirty work for them.

“But he became very hands on after the container was seized.

“He did so through desperation because he needed money quickly to pay back the $10 million to the syndicate in Europe and in that desperation made mistakes and provided us with the evidence to help convict him.

“There was a bill to be paid and the consequences of not paying it would be serious.

“It was at least $10 million, and I suspect that figure was a negotiated settlement.

“I suspect what was really owed was a lot more than that and there was some negotiation, based on Barbaro’s high standing with the international Calabrian mafia community, for him to get a discount on what was really owed.

The mafia are not to be trifled with. Here’s the suspected head of a Calabrian mafia crim

The mafia are not to be trifled with. Here’s the suspected head of a Calabrian mafia crime family Salvatore Coluccio escorted by police special forces after his 2009 arrest. Coluccio had been on the run for four years and as found hiding in a special bunker equipped with an electric generator, an air conditioning system and a large stock of food. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

“The Calabrians in Europe would have borne some of the loss themselves and it may be that there were family members in Italy who copped some of the loss without requiring Barbaro to pay them.

“The $10 million Barbaro sent to Europe wasn’t the full debt.

“Certainly $10 million doesn’t equate to 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy. There was certainly a loss that the European syndicate would have had to bear.”

Det-Supt Warren said it was likely the $10 million Barbaro was required to pay would have been an agreed amount to build trust back up with the European syndicate so it would continue to provide Barbaro with drugs.

He said while the AFP had no specific intelligence which pointed to the Calabrians in Italy being more senior than those in the Australian syndicate it was likely those in Italy were higher up the Calabrian mafia hierarchy.

“There is a long standing history that that is the way the syndicate operates,” Det-Supt Warren said.

“There has been enough intelligence gathered over the years by the AFP, the ACC and the NCA before it, as well as various other organisations who have looked at the ‘Ndrangheta as a group, to say the leadership goes right back to Calabria.

“It branches out into various parts of Europe. They have strong links in Germany.

“There have been quite well publicised Calabrian mafia murders that occurred in Germany that are linked through family connections to Australia.

“There is no question those clans stay strong.

“I think that in terms of the standing in the world of organised crime that the Australian arm of the Calabrian mafia is a bit lower down than the Europeans.

“The centre of Calabrian mafia operations is in Europe, with Australia as a franchise.

“Having said that, Barbaro had a very high standing in the organisation overseas.”

Six Calabrian mafia members were executed in a hail of bullets as they left a birthday party in the German city of Duisberg in August 2007.

They were victims of a long-running feud between the Strangio-Nirta and Pelle-Vottari Calabrian mafia clans. The Pelle-Vottari clan is closely aligned to the Romeo clan.

The warring clans have relatives in Australia who police believe are Calabrian mafia members, particularly the Nirta, Pelle and Romeo clans.

The feud started in 1991 when two members of the Strangio-Nirta clan were shot in a fight with members of the Pelle-Vottari clan during carnival celebrations in the Calabrian mafia stronghold of San Luca in southern Italy.

Women wait for the caskets of Francesco Giorgi, Sebastiano Strangio and Marco Marmo after

Women wait for the caskets of Francesco Giorgi, Sebastiano Strangio and Marco Marmo after their funerals following the mafia slaying that left six dead. Source: AP

A number of tit for tat reprisal attacks happened in following years, culminating in the Duisberg massacre of 2007.

Massacre ringleader Giovanni Strangio was jailed for life in 2011.

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin yesterday said the world’s biggest ecstasy bust was a superb result.

“This prosecution demonstrates the tangible, disruptive results that can occur when the AFP and its partners actively target significant organised crime ventures, and follow through with a combination of tested and innovative investigative tactics,” he told the Herald Sun.

“More than 400 members were involved in the investigation leading up to the arrest phase.

“Their patience and dedication not only prevented 15 million tablets of MDMA from hitting Australian streets, it also dismantled the senior levels of a diverse, well-connected international criminal enterprise that was capable of importing large quantities of drugs, facilitating an associated supply chain and laundering millions of dollars.

The bust kept millions of ecstasy pills off the streets. Picture: Australian Federal Poli

The bust kept millions of ecstasy pills off the streets. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

“This is one of the most significant investigations in the history of the AFP and it is one that we — as an organisation and individuals — are very proud of.”

Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions Robert Bromwich said the charges which followed the world’s biggest ecstasy bust resulted in one of the longest and most successful CDPP prosecutions ever.

“Thirty two of the 33 people known to have been involved have been convicted now,” Mr Bromwich told the Herald Sun.

“The only one who hasn’t is the one who absconded.

“We have had very long running counter terrorism trials, very long running major tax fraud trials and very long running commercial matters.

“We are in the business of running big, difficult trials.”

Mr Bromwich said prosecutors from his department had worked incredibly closely with the AFP.

“The collaboration took place right from the very earliest stage,” he said.

“Our people were involved in advising pretty much on a daily basis on an incredible range of issues, legal, evidentiary, practical and the works.”

Mr Bromwich said the sentence of life with a 30 year non-parole period given to drug gang boss Pasquale Barbaro was one of the longest ever handed down in Australia for a drug offence.

He said there had been a few sentences of life with no parole, but only when the offenders forced a trial by pleading not guilty.

Barbaro pleaded guilty.

Mr Bromwich said it was a “stiff but appropriate sentence” which would send a message to other drug dealers what they were putting at risk by offending.

“What a case like this tells us, in common with many of our other cases, is that a huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes by the police and the prosecutors and the importance of the pivotal role of the prosecutor in shaping and running the case,” Mr Bromwich said.

“What the prosecution really do, what they are engaged in, is the art of bridging the gap between knowing and proving.

“So they are taking the evidence that has been obtained, analysing it, sorting it out, working out where gaps may be and requisitioning for additional evidence to close gaps of that kind.

“What a complex case like this teaches you is how important that collaborative exercise is, how important it is to have experienced, dedicated prosecutors who are able to value add in such an important way to the already very good effort by the police.”

PROFILES: The who’s who of the tomato tin mafia

The characters charged over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust and offences related to it included Calabrian mafia bosses, convicted killers, a bike gang boss, a Lebanese-born shipping industry insider and some of Australia’s most prolific money launderers.

This is the who’s who of the 33 people charged (one of the 33 can’t be identified as his name has been suppressed by the County Court).

Another profile. Picture: Australian Federal Police.

Another profile. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

Pasquale Barbaro. Picture: Australian Federal Police.

Pasquale Barbaro. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

PASQUALE BARBARO, 53, formerly of Whites Rd, Tharbogang, near Griffith, New South Wales.

Nicknames: “Pat” (anglicised version of Pasquale), “Garbo” (a word play on his surname), “Ugly” (because he is no oil painting) and “Muscles” (because he worked on them).

Pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic 4,4 tonnes of ecstasy, trafficking 1.2 million ecstasy tablets and attempting to possess 150kg of cocaine, Asked for a further three offences to be taken into account. Those offences were conspiring to import 100kg of pseudoephedrine from India, dealing with at least a $1 million in cash which was the proceeds of crime and money laundering.

Sentenced to life and ordered to serve a minimum of 30 years.

Barbaro is a senior Calabrian mafia boss and one of Australia’s biggest ever drug dealers.

He has a tattoo on his bicep which echo the words of Winston Churchill. It reads: “If you are going through hell — keep going.”

Barbaro is the undisputed boss of the syndicate charged over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

He is easily the most powerful and domineering gang member, with others in the syndicate being very deferential to him.

It was Barbaro — through his senior role in the Calabrian mafia — who had the international connections to give him access to tonnes of drugs.

An unknown male, most often referred to as “The Turk”, was pre-eminent among the European group providing ecstasy to Barbaro. Barbaro was in regular contact with “The Turk”, usually by text.

Barbaro is the son of Francesco “Little Trees” Barbaro, one of the men named in the Woodward royal commission report as being an influential member of the Griffith Calabrian mafia cell which murdered anti-drug campaigner Donald Mackay in 1977.

In a trait which is common in Calabrian mafia circles, Pasquale Barbaro married his cousin, the daughter of his mother’s sister, when he was 23 and she was 18. They have four children.

In another trait which is common in Calabrian mafia circles, Barbaro became a marijuana grower — as, according to the Woodward royal commission report, his father and uncles had been before him.

And in yet another common Calabrian mafia trait, Barbaro was most comfortable committing criminal acts with close relatives he could trust — keeping it in the family is a Calabrian mafia motto. His cousin Saverio Zirilli was his right-hand man in the drug dealing that brought both of them down. Another of Barbaro’s cousins, Pasquale Sergi, of Griffith, worked alongside Barbaro and was also convicted over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust and another cousin, Domenico Barbaro, was convicted of trafficking ecstasy for the Barbaro syndicate.

Barbaro was an associate of Melbourne Calabrian mafia boss and fruit marketeer Rosario “Ross” Gangemi.

Gangemi died of natural causes at the height of Barbaro’s drug dealing in July 2008.

Barbaro was caught by the AFP in a bugged telephone conversation with fellow gang member Salvatore Agresta discussing coming down from Griffith to pay his respects at Gangemi’s funeral.

The funeral of Rosario Gangemi at St Monica's Catholic Church, Moonee Ponds.

The funeral of Rosario Gangemi at St Monica’s Catholic Church, Moonee Ponds. Source: News Limited

Mick Gatto at his funeral.

Mick Gatto at his funeral. Source: News Limited

Rosario Gangemi

Rosario Gangemi Source: Supplied

Agresta also attended Gangemi’s funeral at St Monica’s Catholic Church in Moonee Ponds on July 7, 2008, as did Mick Gatto, under the watchful eye of undercover police.

Barbaro was charged on April 16, 2009, with two counts of conspiracy to murder.

Those charges were dropped after Barbaro was jailed for life in May 2012 and ordered to serve a minimum of 30 years over his drug charges.

In rejecting a bid for bail by Barbaro, Magistrate Simon Garnet provided details of the alleged murder plots, which were outlined by Victoria Police Det-Sgt Daniel Baulch.

Evidence was given that as a result of information provided to Victoria Police by the AFP, a view was formed that Barbaro and Barbaro gang members Frank Madafferi and Graham Potter had conspired to commit murder.

Madafferi drops a bag into the boot of his car. Picture: Australian Federal Police.

Madafferi drops a bag into the boot of his car. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

Mick Gatto

Mick Gatto Source: News Limited

The alleged intended victims were a man Barbaro blamed for the 4.4 tonne ecstasy shipment being seized, who was a mate of underworld identity Mick Gatto, and a second man Barbaro had fallen out with.

The conspiracy to murder case against Madafferi didn’t proceed past the committal stage and Potter fled, and hasn’t been found, rather than face the drug and conspiracy to murder charges against him.

Barbaro’s bail hearing was told the prosecution would rely on physical surveillance, telephone intercept and optical and listening device material, photographs, witness statements and forensic material to support the charges.

It heard the prosecution would allege Barbaro and his overseas criminal contacts blamed Mr Gatto’s mate, whose name has been suppressed, and who the Herald Sun will call “Gatto’s mate” for the failed 2007 ecstasy shipment and wanted him killed and that Barbaro had a long standing vendetta against the second intended murder victim, who also can’t be named for legal reasons and who the Herald Sun will call “vendetta victim”.

Barbaro, Potter and Ropa pictured in North Melbourne. Picture: Australian Federal Police

Barbaro, Potter and Ropa pictured in North Melbourne. Picture: Australian Federal Police surveillance photo Source: Supplied

In his August 2010 bail hearing judgment, Magistrate Garnett said the prosecution would allege Barbaro enlisted Potter to murder (Gatto’s mate) between January and August 2008.

“It is contended that intercept material will demonstrate a number of discussions involving Mr Barbaro and others in the plan to murder (Gatto’s mate),” the judgement said.

“It will also be alleged that a note written by Mr Barbaro listing possible addresses where (Gatto’s mate) may be located was found at the Carlton premises where Mr Barbaro was staying and where firearms were located.

“It is also alleged that Mr Barbaro, Mr Madafferi and Mr Potter conspired to murder (vendetta victim) between June and July 2008.

“The prosecution intend to rely on intercept material, physical surveillance and the evidence of Witness A, who will allegedly give evidence that Mr Barbaro asked him in June 2008 whether he had killed someone before and if he was interested in doing so for $100,000.

“Sgt Baulch told the court that surveillance material will reveal a plan by Mr Barbaro and others to attend the Reggio Calabria Club on July 24, 2008, to murder (vendetta victim).

“The prosecution will allege that arrangements were made to obtain a ‘clean car’ and to lure (vendetta victim) to an appropriate location.

“It will also be alleged that on July 24, 2008, firearms and ammunition subsequently seized from the residence where Mr Barbaro was staying in Carlton were given by Mr Barbaro to Mr Potter to use in the murder of (vendetta victim).

Guns found buried in the garden of Barbaro’s Carlton flat. Picture: Australian Federal Po

Guns found buried in the garden of Barbaro’s Carlton flat. Picture: Australian Federal Police evidence photo Source: Supplied

“It is alleged that the plan failed when the ‘clean car’ they had obtained broke down on the way to the club and (vendetta victim) left before Mr Potter, Mr Barbaro and Witness A arrived.

“Sgt Baulch told the court that forensic evidence will reveal the presence of gunshot residue in the ‘clean car’.

Barbaro, Zirilli, Polimeni and Potter tried to jump-start the Magna in Carlton North. Pic

Barbaro, Zirilli, Polimeni and Potter tried to jump-start the Magna in Carlton North. Picture: AFP surveillance. Source: Supplied

“Sgt Baulch told the court that in his view Mr Barbaro, if released on bail, would be a risk of failing to answer bail, endangering the safety and welfare of others and interfering with witnesses.

“He also told the court that on February 2 and 3, 2010, whilst remanded, Mr Barbaro made threats to a prosecution witness who was also in custody in relation to another matter.

“It is alleged that Mr Barbaro told this person words to the effect ‘you’re a dog, you know what happens to a dog in a place like this’.

Barbaro and Potter meet in the Red Rooster car park at Westmeadows. Picture: Australian F

Barbaro and Potter meet in the Red Rooster car park at Westmeadows. Picture: Australian Federal Police surveillance photo Source: Supplied

“In relation to the safety of Witness A, Sgt Baulch told the court that information in his possession suggested an associate of Mr Barbaro has tried to contact this witness.

“He agreed that Mr Madafferi had been granted bail and the magistrate who granted bail noted one of the reasons being the lack of strength of the prosecution case.”

Police believe there were also failed plans to try to murder Gatto’s mate at Gatto’s son’s wedding in March 2008 and after a kickboxing tournament the night before the Gatto wedding.

Det-Sgt Baulch said during one of Barbaro’s court appearances that Barbaro believed Gatto’s mate had either stolen drugs belonging to Barbaro’s gang or had caused them to be seized by police.

Police believed there were plans to kill Gatto’s mate at Mick Gatto’s son Damien’s weddin

Police believed there were plans to kill Gatto’s mate at Mick Gatto’s son Damien’s wedding. Source: News Corp Australia

“Barbaro sourced and co-ordinated the obtaining of firearms and vehicles for the murder,” Det-Sgt Baulch told the court.

“On March 28, 2008, it is believed that an attempt was made to murder (Gatto’s mate) at a boxing event held at Docklands.

“Barbaro and others identified (Gatto’s mate’s) vehicle in the car park at the event and an attempt was made to shoot (Gatto’s mate) upon returning to his vehicle.”

The alleged plan was aborted at the last minute because the getaway car had mechanical problems, the court was told.

Barbaro got his first cannabis cultivation charge in 1990. In 1998 he was convicted at the Griffith Magistrates’ Court of preventing a witness from attending.

Supreme Court Judge Betty King said in sentencing Barbaro in 2012 that “over the period of 1990 through to almost 2000 you were dealing with substantial offences of cultivation of cannabis”.

One of the charges related to a crop of 20,000 marijuana plants Barbaro was growing on a farm south of Griffith.

Barbaro was jailed for 14 years over those offences, but only served two years as after numerous appeals and retrials the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to proceed with the matter — freeing Barbaro to graduate from dope growing to massive importations of ecstasy and other drugs.

Another profile. Picture: Australian Federal Police.

Another profile. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

Rob Karam. Picture: Australian Federal Police.

Rob Karam. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

ROB KARAM, 48, formerly of Derby St, Kew.

Nickname: “Pizza” (because of the type of restaurant he chose to meet gang members in to discuss secret business, usually Café Romantica in Lygon St, Brunswick, or Curly Joe’s in Maribyrnong), Tardo (because he was always late to meetings and slow to pay his debts), Cream or Ice Cream (a play on words relating to his surname as well as an indication of his fondness for attending a gelato bar in Lygon St).

Found guilty of conspiring to import the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy. Jailed for 19 years and ordered to serve a minimum of 15. Awaiting further sentencing after being convicted of other drug offences.

Karam’s experience working in the customs clearance and international freight forwarding industries, as well as his network of corrupt dock and shipping industry contacts, have made him the go to man for decades for organised crime bosses wanting to import drugs to Australia in shipping containers.

He helped convicted drug boss Tony Mokbel get tonnes of drugs worth billions of dollars into Melbourne, was the man Pasquale Barbaro went to when he wanted millions of ecstasy tablets shipped from Italy to Melbourne. He also worked with other major drug importers.

It was Karam’s job to identify legitimate importing businesses in Melbourne that were unlikely to attract the attention of Customs when containers arrived that appeared to be destined for delivery to these legitimate companies.

Falsified shipping documents organised by Karam to look genuine meant the phone number freight forwarding companies rang to arrange delivery of containers in the belief it was the number of the legitimate company was actually the phone number of a drug smuggling gang member.

Karam also organised what are known in underworld circles as piggy back importations.

The piggy back method involves having corrupt dock workers overseas and in Melbourne.

Karam would identify a Melbourne company which was legitimately importing goods from such places as South America.

Corrupt waterside workers would put illegal drugs in with the legitimate shipment and then seal the container so Customs in Melbourne would not suspect the cargo had been tampered with and that illegal drugs were piggy backing with a legitimate cargo.

Corrupt dock workers in Melbourne would get to the container as soon as it was unloaded, break open the seal, take out the drugs and then reseal the container so the legitimate cargo could go on its merry way.

One of the charges Karam and Barbaro were convicted over involved 150kg of cocaine that arrived in Melbourne via the old piggy back trick.

Karam was secretly taped by an undercover police officer in Hong Kong as he negotiated to buy 26 tonnes of chemicals to be shipped to Mexico and Australia to make ice.

He asked the undercover cop, who was posing as a Chinese organised crime figure, if he could also buy guns to smuggle into Australia.

SAVERIO ZIRILLI, 58, formerly of Whites Rd, Tharbogang, near Griffith.

Nicknames: “Baldy” (because he is).

Saverio Zirilli. Picture: AFP

Saverio Zirilli. Picture: AFP Source: Supplied

Pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess a commercial quantity of ecstasy, trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy and aiding and abetting the importation of a commercial quantity of cocaine.

Sentenced to 26 years and ordered to serve a minimum of 18.

A cousin of Barbaro and Barbaro’s most trusted associate.

No previous convictions.

Played a leadership role in the Barbaro syndicate, but deferred to Barbaro.

Zirilli stuck to the Calabrian mafia code of omerta after his arrest. Omerta involves members maintaining absolute silence when questioned about the illegal activities of fellow cell members.

Forensic psychologist Stephen Woods gave evidence to the court that when Zirilli was asked about the nature of his offending and why he got involved he replied that he couldn’t make any comment as to do so would place his own life at risk and, of greater concern to him, the lives of his wife and four children.

Sentencing judge Betty King said Zirilli was dealing in massive amounts of drugs over a long period.

“This was not an example of a crime where you, as a result of being pushed, or angry, or suffering financial hardship had determined to do something totally out of character and then stop,” Justice King told Zirilli.

“This continued on for a substantial period of time.

“You were in a lesser role undoubtedly than that of Pasquale Barbaro but you were, equally, his right hand man and that makes you relatively high in the hierarchy of offending of those before the court.

“You are not, to give an example, a street level trafficker involved in selling small amounts of pills.

“You are assisting Barbaro to deal with, obtain and traffick some 15 million ecstasy tablets.

“You go in his stead to meet the European suppliers, which is an indication of the high level of trust in which you are held and your position within the hierarchy of this organisation.”

Police who raided Zirilli’s Griffith home on the day various Barbaro gang members were arrested in 2008 found he was a man who liked to be prepared.

He had a shotgun under his bed and several boxes of viagra in a bedside table.

GRAHAM POTTER, 57, formerly of Pipers River Rd, Pipers River, Tasmania. Nickname: “Devil”(as in Tasmanian devil).

Graham Potter. Picture: AFP

Graham Potter. Picture: AFP Source: Supplied

One of Australia’s most wanted men.

Charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of ecstasy provided by the Barbaro syndicate. Also charged with conspiring to murder two men, one of them an enemy of Barbaro and the other the man blamed by the Barbaro syndicate for the 4.4 tonne shipment of ecstasy being seized by police — that man is a mate of underworld identity Mick Gatto.

One of the failed murder plots Potter was charged over was to have taken place at the wedding of one of Gatto’s sons.

Barbaro, who first met Potter in jail, was charged over the failed murder plots, with police claiming Barbaro hired Potter to kill the two men. Barbaro’s conspiracy to murder charge was dropped after he was sentenced to life with a 30-year-minimum over his drug charges.

The guns Potter allegedly intended using to commit the two murders were found buried in the garden of Barbaro’s Carlton love nest.

Potter fled after being given bail and is still missing.

He is known in the underworld as the ‘head and fingers killer’

So called because of what he did to 19-year-old Kim Narelle Barry in 1981.

He met Ms Barry on the dance floor at a Wollongong disco while at his buck’s night.

Potter, a coal miner at the time, took her back to his flat and killed her with two blows to the head, crushing her skull.

Authorities retrieve Ms Barry’s body.

Authorities retrieve Ms Barry’s body. Source: News Corp Australia

Kim Narelle Barry

Kim Narelle Barry Source: News Corp Australia

Evidence police gathered later suggested Ms Barry was attacked because she refused to have sex with Potter after discovering he was about to be married.

Potter put Ms Barry’s body in a bath and used a hacksaw to decapitate her before chopping off her fingers in the hope of hiding her identity if her body was found.

Potter threw Ms Barry’s naked body over the side of a cliff at Jamberoo Lookout, near Wollongong.

The body got caught in tree foliage and ended up on a ledge wedged against a tree, where it was found two days later.

A bag containing her skull and severed fingers was found three weeks later.

Potter was last seen fleeing from a car during a routine vehicle inspection by police in Tully, Queensland, in August 2010. A later search of a caravan park Potter had been staying in at Tully found his abandoned tent and other possessions.

FRANCESCO MADAFFERI, 54, lived in Hermitage Drive, Greenvale and ran Mondo Fruit in Sydney Rd, Coburg up until his arrest in 2008.

Francesco Madafferi. Picture: AFP.

Francesco Madafferi. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Nicknames: “Fruit” (because of his business), “Chiccio”, “Pacho” (a diminutive from the Calabrese “pacciu”, meaning crazy or mad), “Madman” (because he was).

Found guilty of trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy. Jailed for 10 years and ordered to serve a minimum of seven.

Senior Calabrian mafia member in Victoria.

He was a major drug dealer within months of former federal minister Amanda Vanstone overturning a decision to deport him.

The lifting of court suppression orders enables the Herald Sun to reveal details of death threats made by Madafferi.

Police secretly taped him threatening to chop an associate “into little pieces” after he won his nine-year legal battle to stay in Australia.

Madafferi’s Coburg fruit and vegetable shop.

Madafferi’s Coburg fruit and vegetable shop. Source: News Limited

Madafferi was a drug dealer for the Calabrian mafia dominated gang charged by the AFP over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

Members of that syndicate were nabbed in 2008 after they imported 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy into Melbourne from Italy.

Ms Vanstone, the then Immigration Minister, granted Madafferi a permanent spouse visa in 2005.

An early mugshot of Francesco Madafferi

An early mugshot of Francesco Madafferi Source: News Corp Australia

That reversed a 2000 decision by her predecessor, Philip Ruddock, to refuse him a visa on the ground he was of bad character.

Mr Ruddock said it would be against the national interest to allow Madafferi to stay in Australia.

He made that decision after Victoria Police claimed if Madafferi was allowed to stay he would “continue to carry out acts of violence on behalf of an organised crime syndicate”.

Victoria Police claimed then that Madafferi “belongs to a crime family involved with blackmail, extortion and murder”.

Just three years after Ms Vanstone rescued Madafferi from deportation he was taped by police telling fellow Calabrian mafia drug dealer Pasquale Barbaro he intended kidnapping criminal associate Pino Varallo so he could “tear his head off and chop him into little pieces”.

Pino Varallo. Picture: Australian Federal Police

Pino Varallo. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

A scared Varallo rang Barbaro on July 26, 2008, and as the AFP listened he said he had recently spoken to Madafferi and that Madafferi was “going off his rocker” and was “off his tree” and had threatened slit Varallo’s throat or shoot him.

Madafferi also bragged in another taped conversation that while Barbaro controlled drug operations interstate “Melbourne is mine”.

He angrily warned Varallo to not “break my f…..g balls on my f…… turf” and that he, not Barbaro, was “responsible for Melbourne”.

Madafferi was charged in 2009 with conspiracy to murder in relation to yet another falling out, but the charges didn’t proceed past the Magistrates’ Court committal stage.

He failed to reveal convictions in Italy for stabbings, extortion and drug offences when he came to Australia in 1989 on a six-month visitor’s visa and stayed illegally.

He married Australian citizen Anna La Verde the following year and the couple had four children.

Madafferi was caught and detained as an illegal immigrant in 1996 after a raid by Immigration Department officers and detectives from Victoria Police’s organised crime squad.

There was an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Italy at the time, where he faced almost five years’ jail on unserved sentences for violence and dishonesty offences.

Madafferi had also served jail time in Italy for kidnapping, mafia conspiracy, theft and other offences against the person — he was released from prison in 1987.

Madafferi pictured in 2001.

Madafferi pictured in 2001. Source: News Limited

Documents seen by the Herald Sun reveal Mr Ruddock’s 2000 decision not to grant Madafferi a visa was based on his view that allowing Madafferi to stay in Australia would have a detrimental effect on Australia’s reputation and good name in the international community.

“On balance, I found that due to the seriousness of Mr Madafferi’s convictions and his outstanding warrant of arrest and sentence in Italy, it would be in the national interest to refuse his visa,” Mr Ruddock’s said in a 2000 document sent to Madafferi’s lawyers.

Mr Ruddock’s 2000 decision not to grant Madafferi a visa was upheld in 2002 by the full bench of the Federal Court.

Former Senator Vanstone confirmed to the Herald Sun in 2006 that Madafferi had later been given a permanent spouse visa.

“Given all the circumstances surrounding the case I believe it was appropriate to grant the visa,” she said then.

Former Senator Amanda Vanstone

Former Senator Amanda Vanstone Source: News Limited

Madafferi was dealing drugs just months later.

He was heavily involved with various members of the Barbaro drug gang, and was selling ecstasy provided by Barbaro gang members.

AFP agents secretly taped Barbaro and Madafferi discussing drug deals.

Surveillance officers also secretly watched Barbaro and Madafferi when they flew to Perth together on May 19, 2008, to organise interstate drug deals, with Madafferi introducing Barbaro to Perth-based Calabrian mafia drug dealers.

Madafferi and Barbaro were both arrested on August 8, 2008, by AFP agents.

Documents seized from an apartment in Little Palmerston St, Carlton, which Barbaro used when visiting Melbourne from his home in Griffith, revealed precise details of the ecstasy supplied to Madafferi by the Barbaro syndicate.

Barbaro’s business records showed Madafferi received 57,000 ecstasy tablets between February and May 2008, and that he also helped Barbaro traffic a further 35,000 pills to a Perth drug gang.

Madafferi’s brother Tony was banned from Crown casino by Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay in 2014 under the same powers used to previously ban drug boss Tony Mokbel and various other underworld figures, including Mick Gatto, from the gambling mecca.

Allegations that Tony Madafferi was a hitman for the Calabrian mafia and a prospective Godfather of the Italian secret society were aired in court during the 1993 inquest into the death of fruiterer Alfonso Muratore.

The coroner rejected a bid by Tony Madafferi’s lawyer, Colin Lovitt, QC, to suppress the claims — but the coroner did warn the media that the allegations were simply that, allegations, and should not be reported as fact.

Tony Madafferi has denied the claims and has not been charged in relation to any of the allegations made against him during the Muratore inquest.

CARMELO FALANGA, 49, formerly of Lacey Rd, Bugle Ranges, South Australia.

Carmelo Falanga. Picture: AFP

Carmelo Falanga. Picture: AFP Source: Supplied

Nicknames: “Sticks” (because he walked with one), “Fingers” (a word play on his surname) and “Choc” (a politically incorrect reference to his dark skin).

Found guilty of conspiracy to import the 4.4 tonne shipment of ecstasy from Italy. Sentenced to 23 years and ordered to serve a minimum of 16 years and 6 months.

Senior and powerful Italian organised crime figure in South Australia. He and Barbaro financed the importation of the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy from Italy and they became liable to each pay $5 million to the European syndicate to compensate it after the 15 million pills were seized by the AFP in Melbourne.

Falanga was arrested on August 8, 2008, over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

He was released on bail two weeks later and went back to SA, where he started drug dealing again.

Falanga pictured getting into a Landcruiser outside the Marriott Hotel. Picture: Australi

Falanga pictured getting into a Landcruiser outside the Marriott Hotel. Picture: Australian Federal Police. Source: Supplied

Falanga was jailed over drug and weapons offences in SA for nine years in 2012.

Evidence was given at his SA trial that police found Falanga’s homemade fully automatic submachine gun and his .357 revolver, along with ammunition for both, hidden in the ceiling of a sauna.

Falanga is arrested after a siege at his property.

Falanga is arrested after a siege at his property. Source: News Limited

When police went to search a Falanga property in SA in July 2011 he refused to allow them access and fired off four shots from a .38 calibre handgun.

Police eventually got into the property and found Falanga’s meth lab.

JOHN HIGGS, 68, formerly of Belair Court, Taylors Lakes.

Higgs following his arrest. Picture: AFP.

Higgs following his arrest. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

John Higgs. Picture: AFP

John Higgs. Picture: AFP Source: Supplied

Nickname: “Teeth” (because he has bad ones).

Found guilty of conspiracy to import the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy into Melbourne.

Jailed for 18 years and ordered to serve a minimum of 14.

Higgs is a convicted killer and is the founding member of the Melbourne chapter of the Black Uhlans bikie gang.

He was one of three major criminals who organised and paid corrupt police to carry out the burglary of the Victoria Police drug squad office in St Kilda Rd in 1996.

The burglary was committed to steal documents which would identify the key prosecution witness against Higgs, who was in witness protection and codenamed E2/92.

It happened shortly before E2/92, whose identity is still suppressed, was due to give evidence against Higgs.

Police believe Higgs organised the drug squad burglary so E2/92 could be identified, tracked down and executed before he could testify.

Former homicide squad boss Peter Halloran rang E2/92 in Europe immediately after the burglary and warned him he should change addresses quickly as “the crooks know who you are and where you live”.

Despite that attempt on his life, E2/92 returned to Melbourne and bravely gave evidence against Higgs and six other major criminals.

Higgs ran Australia’s biggest amphetamine gang for years until Victoria Police caught him in 1994 with seven tonnes of chemicals capable of making 226kg of illegal drugs worth more than $400 million.

Higgs was caught with enough chemicals to make amphetamines worth $406 million.

Higgs was caught with enough chemicals to make amphetamines worth $406 million. Source: News Limited

He was jailed in 1999 for just six years, with a minimum of four, over that and got straight back into major drug dealing on his release.

Higgs was recruited into Barbaro’s gang because of his corrupt painter and docker contacts on the wharves and his strong links to the bikie gangs. Bikies would have become major buyers of some of the 15 million ecstasy tablets if they hadn’t been seized.

AFP surveillance officers watched as Higgs held meetings with senior members of the Hells Angels as well as Comancheros bikie Mohammed Oueida.

Oueida was later jailed for drug trafficking.

The AFP discovered Oueida had his own plane, $6 million in a Swiss bank account and a $2.8 million fortified property in Greenvale, which came with its own golf course.

Bikie Mohammed Charif Oueida’s Ferrari was among property worth almost $5 million that wa

Bikie Mohammed Charif Oueida’s Ferrari was among property worth almost $5 million that was seized by a joint Victoria Police/AFP taskforce in April, 2011. Source: Supplied

Higgs wasn’t fully trusted by Barbaro and other Calabrian mafia gang members because of his fondness for sampling the illegal drugs he was supposed to be selling and his rampant sex life, often with young prostitutes.

Senior Barbaro gang member Jan Visser was secretly taped by the AFP telling Barbaro’s cousin Zirilli about Higgs: “He is the way he is. We have to accept the way he is and now and again the speed and the ice is just a little bit too much for him. He f…ing hallucinates and he sees things and has 24-year-old girlfriends and stuff like that.”

John Higgs is led from the Supreme Court into a waiting prison van.

John Higgs is led from the Supreme Court into a waiting prison van. Source: News Limited

The Barbaro gang members put up with Higgs and his dangerous drug and sex habits because he had the contacts they needed to get drugs off the docks and was closely connected to Karam.

Karam’s dealings with Barbaro were initially all through Higgs as Karam wanted to stay as hands off as possible to avoid detection.

Higgs’s life of crime started at an early age. He left school at the end of Year 7 and got the first of his many adult convictions at the age of 20 in 1966.

He married at the age of 17 to a 16-year-old.

Two children from that marriage died in tragic circumstances. Higgs’s eldest son Craig was murdered in 1999 while his second son died of AIDS at the age of 30 in 1996.

Higgs’s marriage ended in 1970 after he was jailed for 12 years for manslaughter, although he got out in less than nine.

He started another relationship soon after being released and fathered another two sons before that relationship also ended.

At the time of his sentencing in 2013 he was in a relationship with a woman less than half his age. He fathered a child with her in 2011 when he was aged 64.

JAN VISSER, 64, of no fixed abode, having been on the run as a prison escapee at the time of his arrest.

Jan Visser. Picture: AFP.

Jan Visser. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Found guilty of conspiring to import the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy into Melbourne. Sentenced to 11 years and ordered to serve a minimum of 8.

Visser was born in the Netherlands, but came to live in Australia in 1961 at the age of 10.

A career criminal and father of six who was a close associate of Barbaro and Zirilli. He was there to do whatever Barbaro and Zirilli wanted in relation to receiving the 15 million pills and distributing them.

Visser described his role to Barbaro gang members as a fixer, a resource on hand and available to others should they need him to salvage their criminal venture, which was foundering and at risk of failure.

He was secretly taped telling gang member Pasquale Sergi his role in the gang was that of a “tugboat”, getting the salvage team ready.

AFP bugs caught him bragging that he would “run an armed team” onto the docks and get a corrupt crane driver to lift the container of pills onto the back of a truck.

Visser was a prison escapee and on the run from police in NSW at the time he was working with Barbaro on the 4.4 tonne ecstasy importation. He escaped from the court cells while waiting to appear on drug charges.

Visser escaped by pretending to be another prisoner who was due to be released on bail.

That prisoner was asleep in the same cell as Visser in April 2007 when a prison officer came in and asked which of them was due out on bail. Visser seized the opportunity to assume the other prisoner’s identity and walked free.

He fled to Melbourne and immediately started working for Barbaro, who he had done jail time with in the past.

Barbaro got Visser a fake passport later in 2007 so Visser could flee back to the Netherlands, where he was born, to avoid capture.

He was arrested in May 2008 when he flew into Melbourne and was immediately extradited back to NSW in relation to the outstanding drug matters and escaping custody.

Visser thought he was home free when he was granted parole in August 2012 after serving just over four years on the NSW drug and escaping charges.

What he didn’t know was the AFP had been waiting for his release so they could charge him over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust. AFP agents grabbed him as he walked out of jail and told him he was being extradited to Melbourne, where he stood trial in April 2014 and was found guilty.

His long and violent criminal history includes a 1984 conviction for two counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to murder, three counts of maliciously causing grievous bodily harm by explosion and one count of threatening to use an offensive weapon to try to avoid arrest.

Visser was jailed for life over those charges, but appealed and eventually got a minimum term of 13 years and six months.

SALVATORE AGRESTA, 47, Prospect Drive, Keilor East.

Salvatore Agresta. Picture: AFP

Salvatore Agresta. Picture: AFP Source: Supplied

Nickname: “Sam” (anglicized version of his first name), “Sandwich” (because he made them at his cafe).

Found guilty of conspiracy to import the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy and pleaded guilty to trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy. Jailed for 12 years over the conspiracy and 10 years for trafficking — ordered to serve a minimum of 11 years.

Owner of the Ascot Pasta and Deli Café in Union Rd, Ascot Vale, where underworld figure Des ‘Tuppence’ Moran was executed in June 2009.

Agresta — who was out on bail at the time over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust charges — and his wife were in their deli when Moran was shot dead. They watched in horror as a masked gunman pumped seven rounds into Moran in the doorway of what was his favourite cafe.

Former Rebels bikie gang president Geoffrey ‘Nuts’ Armour was convicted of murdering Moran in a plot instigated by Moran’s sister-in-law, Judy Moran, who was also convicted over the murder.

Agresta used to work for major freight handler Patricks and was a close associate of Barbaro and Zirilli, who brought him in after the 4.4 tonne shipment of ecstasy arrived in the hope he could use his corrupt shipping industry contacts to help obtain access to the container.

Also sold almost 120,000 ecstasy pills for the Barbaro syndicate. Was trusted enough by Barbaro that he received the pills on credit and only had to pay Barbaro back once he had sold the pills.

Agresta stored large quantities of ecstasy pills at his elderly father’s house for the Barbaro syndicate.

Has prior convictions for possession and use of weapons, property damage, assaults, resisting arrest, hindering police and possession and use of cocaine.

SHARON ROPA, 44, formerly of Little Palmerston St, Carlton.

Sharon Ropa. Picture: AFP.

Sharon Ropa. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Nickname: “Blondie” (because she was).

Pleaded guilty to trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy, dealing with $1 million or more of the proceeds of crime and possession of property reasonably suspected to be the proceeds of crime.

Jailed for nine years and 6 months and ordered to serve a minimum of seven.

Was Barbaro’s Melbourne mistress and was naked in bed with Barbaro when the AFP raided their Carlton love nest at 4am on August 8, 2008.

Barbaro got to know Ropa after he did jail time with Ropa’s former partner. He promised Ropa’s ex he would look after Ropa when he got out.

Ropa kept meticulous records of who in Barbaro’s gang had been provided with what amount of drugs and how much each trafficker had paid Barbaro and owed Barbaro.

The AFP seized those records during the raid on the Carlton apartment Ropa rented for her and Barbaro and used the records as evidence in the trials of those charged over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust and other drug offences involving the Barbaro syndicate

It was Ropa who took bags of cash to Melbourne money launderers to send to the European gang that shipped the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy from Italy.

She was clearly part of Barbaro’s inner circle and was present during many secretly taped conversations in which Barbaro discussed and organised large scale drug dealing with associates.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Jeanette Moir gave evidence at Ropa’s court case that she had been treating Ropa for depression since before Ropa’s arrest in August 2008.

Dr Moir said Ropa had been in abusive relationships with a number of men, but that Barbaro had not been physically abusive towards her.

Ropa told Dr Moir she respected Barbaro and the males associated with him and described her relationship with Barbaro as being “putty in his hands”.

Dr Moir said Ropa’s ongoing focus in life “was to have a male to be with, no matter what the personal cost”.

Forensic psychologist Jeffrey Cummins provided a report during Ropa’s court case which revealed that Ropa told him she was also in a sexual relationship with Alan Saric, one of the drug dealers she was supplying ecstasy to.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Danny Sullivan gave evidence during Ropa’s court case about his dealings with Ropa.

Dr Sullivan said Ropa was enthralled by Barbaro during the time she and he were drug dealing and that she had a dependent personality style.

Ropa and Potter snapped by AFP surveillance in Lygon Street, Carlton. Picture: AFP.

Ropa and Potter snapped by AFP surveillance in Lygon Street, Carlton. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

“Her behaviour at the time was not so much that she was impressed with the importance of her position in this enterprise, but rather she was more impressed with the regard in which she considered Mr Barbaro held her as a consequence of her behaviours,” Dr Sullivan said.

“So in that sense, I would describe her as beholden, in the sense that she would do anything for him to gain his respect, his adulation, his admiration or his ongoing company.

“The reason I think she was able to continue engaging in such behaviour so continually was because of her desire to please Mr Barbaro.”

Prosecutor Brent Young said: “The evidence clearly reveals that Ms Ropa was obviously emotionally infatuated with Barbaro. She wanted to establish better her worth for him to gain his favour and to thereby inspire his affection.”

County Court sentencing Judge James Montgomery told the court that after Barbaro was arrested and remanded in custody he “sent” a man to Ropa, who was out on bail at the time.

The judge said Ropa formed a relationship with that man and it turned into a violent one as he “attempted to place pressure on you”.

“It was put by your counsel that you have had an unfortunate history in your choice of male partners,” Justice Montgomery told Ropa when he jailed her.

“I cannot but agree.”

While Ropa obviously idolised Barbaro, he demonstrated in conversations recorded by the AFP that he didn’t have much respect for her and considered her to be a sexual plaything that would also cook and clean for him.

Barbaro was on the phone on May 30, 2008, arranging for gang member Agresta to meet Ropa, saying he would have to “meet the bitch later”.

In a bugged conversation with Melbourne Calabrian mafia heavy Francesco Madafferi on July 1, 2008, Barbaro sneeringly referred to Ropa as “the tart”.

Ropa and Zirilli were secretly taped by the AFP on May 14, 2008, as they discussed the role of women in the Calabrian mafia.

Ropa said: “Is that what I am, a mafia moll?”

Zirilli replied: “Nah, get f…ed, you’re a mafia secretary.”

 PASQUALE SERGI, 51, formerly of North Grove Drive, Griffith.

Nicknames: “Poppy” and “Fatso” (because he was).

Pasquale Sergi. Picture: AFP.

Pasquale Sergi. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Found guilty of conspiring to import the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy and pleaded guilty to trafficking a commercial quantity of ecstasy.

Jailed for 16 years and ordered to serve a minimum of eight years and three months.

Griffith-based and a cousin of Calabrian mafia boss Pasquale Barbaro.

Described in court as one of Barbaro’s foot soldiers, willing and waiting to do whatever Barbaro asked.

Airline and Immigration records show Sergi was in Italy in May 2007 when the shipping container containing the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy was loaded in Naples.

Police suspect Barbaro sent him there to supervise the loading of the 15 million pills onto the MV Monica for the voyage to Melbourne.

Sergi was a regular visitor to the Melbourne apartment Barbaro shared with his lover Sharon Ropa and was secretly recorded taking part in drug dealing discussions with Barbaro, Ropa and other gang members.

It was Sergi who Barbaro got to dig a hole in the love nest’s garden to hide, drugs, guns and money in.

The married father of four was sleeping in Barbaro and Ropa’s apartment when the AFP raided it to make arrests in August 2008.

Sentencing judge Felicity Hampel said she was satisfied Sergi was aware of Barbaro’s drug dealing and was prepared to assist Barbaro with whatever he needed.

“You were present when discussions took place about supply generally, about prices, about collection of money and return of broken tablets for re-pressing,” Justice Hampel told Sergi.

“You knew where money and drugs were stored and concealed, who the customers were and how some of the supplies to customers were arranged.

“You may have been an underling, but you were an enthusiastic and willing participant in the enterprise.”

DOMENICO BARBARO, 47, formerly of Todd Rd, Lake Wyangan, near Griffith, NSW.

Domenico Barbaro. Picture: AFP.

Domenico Barbaro. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Nickname: “Bubble” (as a result of how he used to pronounce his surname when he was a child).

Pleaded guilty to trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy.

Jailed for seven years and ordered to serve a minimum of five.

Another of gang boss Pasquale Barbaro’s cousins.

His father is a convicted drug grower and evidence was given during the case that Domenico Barbaro admitted his father lost his leg after being shot over a dispute relating to his marijuana growing.

Evidence was given that Domenico Barbaro was a follower rather than a leader and that he felt an obligation to help his older cousin Pasquale Barbaro in the Barbaro drug syndicate.

GIOVANNI POLIMENI, 42, formerly of Wyanga Ave, Griffith.

Giovanni Polimeni. Picture: AFP.

Giovanni Polimeni. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the importation of 150kg of cocaine. Jaioed for 18 years and ordered to serve a minimum of 12.

The Polimeni and Barbaro families of Griffith have been close for decades.

Sentencing judge James Montgomery outlined background provided by Polimeni’s lawyer.

“Barbaro was a very successful farmer in the Griffith area, indeed had a reputation for mediating disputes, which he did on a number of occasions for the Polimeni family, particularly in relation to a dispute with a Casella family, a well-known wine family at Griffith,” Justice Montgomery told Polimeni during his County Court sentencing hearing.

“This led to Mr Shaw (Polimeni’s lawyer) to make his second point, that the relationship with Barbaro arose out of the family ties between the two families and he told me that you felt a sense of gratitude and obligation to Barbaro.”

Polimeni was senior enough in Barbaro’s Calabrian mafia cell to be trusted to travel, at Barbaro’s expense, to Europe to meet the European drug trafficking syndicate which was supplying Barbaro with ecstasy and cocaine. Polimeni travelled with Barbaro’s cousin Saverio Zirilli in March 2008 to negotiate with the Europeans.

Polimeni also travelled with Zirilli from Griffith to Melbourne on the date of the arrival of the container containing the 150kg of cocaine. He remained in Melbourne until it was realised that all hope of obtaining safe possession of the cocaine was gone as it had been seized by the AFP.

Polimeni was secretly taped by police as he explained to other gang members exactly how the cocaine had been packed in the container.

PHILLIP BATTICCIOTTO, 53, formerly of Bugden Ave, Fadden, ACT.

Phillip Batticciotto. Picture: AFP.

Phillip Batticciotto. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Found guilty of conspiracy to import 100kg of precursor chemicals to make amphetamines.

Jailed for 10 years and ordered to serve a minimum of seven.

Went to school at St Joseph’s primary in Collingwood during seven years spent in Melbourne, where his father ran a butcher shop.

Became a butcher himself and ran the family wholesale meat business in Canberra since 1996.

Married to Pasquale Barbaro’s cousin and has four children.

Barbaro was recorded by the AFP telling Batticciotto he was planning to open a Tepanyaki-style Japanese restaurant in Griffith and suggested to Batticciotto that he become a partner in it, which Batticciotto enthusiastically agreed to.

SEVERINO SCARPONI, 45, formerly of Allinga Ave, Glenside, South Australia.

Severino Scarponi

Severino Scarponi Source: Supplied

Pleaded guilty to trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy, conspiring to import a commercial quantity of drug-making chemicals and possessing the proceeds of crime.

Jailed for nine years and ordered to serve a minimum of six.

His lawyer told the court he was “in awe” of Barbaro and even though Scarponi knew Barbaro was a dangerous man he came to admire him and was happy to deal drugs for him.

Scarponi, the owner of an Adelaide trucking company, was used by Barbaro to arrange transportation of almost 500,000 ecstasy tablets from Sydney to Melbourne.

He was also going to be used to transport the 150kg shipment of cocaine to Griffith if it hadn’t been seized by the AFP.

GRATIAN BRAN, 57, formerly of Mernda Ave, Cheltenham.

Gratian Bran. Picture: AFP.

Gratian Bran. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Pleaded guilty to trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy.

Jailed for seven years and ordered to serve a minimum of five.

Mr X, who can’t be identified but who is a senior member of the European gang which supplied the 4.4 tonnes of ecstasy, got Bran involved in drug dealing.

Bran served time in a Romanian jail for trying to escape from military service.

He knew Mr X in Europe through working for his family export business.

Bran contacted Mr X in Europe from Melbourne in 2007, seeking help from Mr X to export wine to Europe from Australia.

Bran’s lawyers claimed he only got involved in drug dealing so Mr X would help him with his wine exporting business.

Sentencing judge James Montgomery said Bran was involved in trafficking 20,000 ecstasy tablets and the money laundering of at least $1.94 million, knowing it was money from the proceeds of crime.

Ecstasy gang leader Pasquale Barbaro was caught on tape by police as he explained to Bran how foolish drug boss Tony Mokbel was to have got caught on the run in Greece.

Barbaro claimed to Bran that he had a number of friends who had successfully evaded police by fleeing overseas and lying low.

A listening device in Barbaro’s Carlton apartment recorded him talking to Bran after the pair had just watched a news report about Mokbel’s capture in Greece.

Barbaro told Bran Mokbel was “stupid” and a “goose” and that he should have gone to Lebanon rather than sitting on the beach in Greece.

“Go to the f…ing mountains of Lebanon,” Barbaro told Bran.

“Live like a king, mate they drink champagne and eat f…ing fish all day.

“They’ve got things underground, five star houses over there underground.

“What’s money? I would rather be poor and be free than a millionaire and be in jail, f..k that.”

Bran himself was taped by the AFP in a conversation with Barbaro in which Bran offered to send some heavy debt collectors he knew to punish Rob Karam over money Karam owed the Barbaro gang.

Barbaro replied saying he had told Karam he would pay at the end of the day “either in money, or with his life”.

ANTONIO DI PIETRO, 48, formerly of Pound Rd, Narre Warren.

Antonio Di Pietro: Picture: AFP.

Antonio Di Pietro: Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Nickname: “Truck” (because he worked at transport company) and “Elvis” (as a result of his slicked back hair).

Pleaded guilty to trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy.

Jailed for seven years and ordered to serve a minimum of four years and six months.

Long term associate of gang boss Pasquale Barbaro. Acted as an intermediary between Barbaro and Frank Madafferi as he knew them both.

PINO VARALLO, 46, formerly of Mount Pleasant Rd, Eltham.

Nickname: Tiles (because he laid them).

Pino Varallo. Picture: Australian Federal Police

Pino Varallo. Picture: Australian Federal Police Source: Supplied

Pleaded guilty to trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy.

Jailed for eight years and six months and ordered to serve a minimum of five years.

His lawyer claimed he met Barbaro through doing a large tiling job on Barbaro’s brother’s house in Griffith and that Barbaro told him he could make a lot of money if he sold ecstasy pills in Melbourne for him.

Sentencing judge James Montgomery told Varallo drug users relied on people being prepared to sell to them.

“You entered into your association with Mr Barbaro for a profit,” Justice Montgomery said.

“You were a businessman in difficult financial circumstances who succumbed to the temptation of being involved in the drug trafficking world as a way to make a quick and easy profit to rescue your finances.”

ANIL SURI, 59, formerly of Clarendon St, Maidstone.

Anil Suri. Picture: AFP

Anil Suri. Picture: AFP Source: Supplied

Convicted of conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of precursor chemicals to make amphetamines.

Jailed for 11 years and initially ordered to serve a minimum of nine years. His minimum term was dropped to eight years on appeal.

His role was to source and then oversee the export of 100kg of chemicals from India to Melbourne to make ice.

As it turned out, Suri’s criminal contacts in India were not as good as the Barbaro gang thought as the gang in India shipped 100kg of useless chemicals in a classic drug rip off where buyers pay for one drug and get something different.

ALAN SARIC, 41, formerly of Conquest Drive, Werribee.

Alan Saric

Alan Saric Source: Supplied

Pleaded guilty to trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy.

Jailed for six years and ordered to serve a minimum of three years and six months.

Shared something apart from drug dealing with gang boss Pasquale Barbaro — they were both having sex with fellow syndicate member Sharon Ropa.

Sentencing judge James Montgomery outlined the background provided to the court by Saric’s lawyer.

“Prior to your involvement with Ms Ropa you were married, you were running a construction business,” Justice Montgomery told Saric.

“You became involved in a commercial job in Malvern. Halfway through the job, the developer’s money dried up.

“You had put your house up as collateral. The developer went into liquidation and you lost $130,000.

“You lost your house. This caused difficulties with your marriage.

“Your wife, at the time, was a lawyer with Slater and Gordon. Her income was not enough to support the financial difficulties that had occurred to you. There was a matrimonial dispute between the two of you.

“In 2008, you met Sharon Ropa. You had been drinking alcohol excessively.

“She introduced you to the drug world. You were selling the tablets to wholesalers and remitting the money back to Ms Ropa.

“You were involved with some 15,000 ecstasy tablets, supplied by Ms Ropa. You sold on to other wholesalers. You received $100,500 yourself as payment.”

FADL MAROUN, 33, lived at Raglan St, Preston.

Fadl Maroun, after his arrest. Picture: Australian Federal Police.

Fadl Maroun. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Pleaded guilty to trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy. Not yet sentenced. Travelled to Hong Kong with Karam to try to buy 26 tonnes of chemicals to make ice. Along with Karam, was caught in an AFP sting during which he and Karam were secretly recorded as they were negotiating and committing drug deals with undercover police in Hong Kong and Melbourne.

FRANK MOLLUSO, 33, formerly of Menzies St, Braybrook.

Frank Molluso. Picture: AFP.

Frank Molluso. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Nickname: “Kitchen” (because he ran Creative Kitchens, which was used by the gang to store drugs).

Pleaded guilty to trafficking in a commercial quantity of ecstasy.

Jailed for eight years and ordered to serve a minimum of six years and six months.

Sentencing judge James Montgomery said Molluso’s drug dealing was of a serious nature.

“General deterrence is an important sentencing consideration for this type of offending,” Justice Montgomery told Molluso.

“That is, I must impose a sentence that will deter or try and stop other people committing similar offences.

“In this offending you were a willing participant in a serious drug trafficking operation.

“I understand you became involved through your association with Mr Tony Di Pietro.

“You were a young person influenced by a smarter, older, more cunning and persuasive friend of the family, but you still made your own decision to be involved.”

PAUL PSAILA, 44, of Seaver Grove, Reservoir.

Paul Psaila.

Paul Psaila. Source: Supplied

Pleaded guilty to trafficking a marketable quantity of ecstasy.

Jailed for four years and nine months and ordered to serve a minimum of two years and nine months.

Had prior convictions for dishonesty and heroin trafficking.

Heroin addict who met Pasquale Barbaro in prison in Queensland. Recruited by Barbaro to traffick ecstasy and handled thousands of pills.

AMREN JOSKUN, 53, of Harrow Rd, Auburn, NSW.

Amren Joskun

Amren Joskun Source: Supplied

Pleaded guilty to trafficking ecstasy.

Jailed for 14 months and ordered to serve a minimum of six months.

Born in Turkey. Moved to Sydney in 1988. Moved to Griffith in 1999 to work as a fruit picker, met Pasquale Barbaro while doing so and became involved in drug trafficking for the Barbaro syndicate.

Used his own car to transport thousands of ecstasy pills for Barbaro.

KADIR DEMIR, 49, of Chestnut Rd, Auburn, NSW.

Kadir Demir. Picture: AFP.

Kadir Demir. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Pleaded guilty to trafficking a marketable quantity of ecstasy.

Jailed for two years and ordered to serve a minimum of 15 months.

Born in Turkey. Met Barbaro while working as a fruit picker in Griffith. Minor player who transported ecstasy from Sydney to Melbourne with co-accused Amren Joskun.

Provided advice to Barbara gang members on how best to transport pills by road to avoid being detected.

PASQUALE SERGI, 40, of McCarthy St, Fairfield West, NSW. (Pasquale Sergi from Griffith was also charged)

Minor player who was given a 12-month intensive correction order over his ecstasy trafficking for the Barbaro syndicate.

DANNY MOUSSA, 36, of McGowan St, Preston.

Danny Moussa. Picture: AFP.

Danny Moussa. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Pasquale “Patrick” Sergi. Picture: AFP

Pasquale “Patrick” Sergi. Picture: AFP Source: Supplied

Pleaded guilty to trafficking ecstasy.

Given a four month suspended sentence and ordered to be of good behaviour for two years.

Minor player.

MONEY LAUNDERING

The AFP team investigating the Barbaro syndicate’s massive drug dealing also identified the Melbourne-based money laundering gang Barbaro used to get drug money to the European syndicate.

Tanesh Dias. Picture: AFP.

Tanesh Dias. Picture: AFP. Source: Supplied

Seyed Moulana

Seyed Moulana Source: Supplied

Anvardeen Abdul-Jabbar

Anvardeen Abdul-Jabbar Source: Supplied

Mohamed Thoufeeq Abdul Majeed

Mohamed Thoufeeq Abdul Majeed Source: Supplied

They charged five members of the money laundering syndicate and they were jailed for between two and seven years.

The five were Mohamed Thoufeeq Abdul Majeed, Anvardeen Abdul-Jabbar, Tanesh Dias, Seyed Moulana and Mohammed Nasfan Abdul Nazeer.

They laundered more than $11 million through Singapore for the Barbaro syndicate.

keith.moor@news.com.au

Sydney terror raid-Omar Al-Kutobi, 24, and Mohammad Kiad, 25, arrested, hunting knife and flag seized


Omar al-Kutobi, a computer science student, and Mohammad Kiad, who moved into the property only last year

Omar al-Kutobi, a computer science student, and Mohammad Kiad, who moved into the property only last year

Friggin wannabe terrorists or facebook heroes by the look of them. Do not be deceived though, this is real and current and can bee happening in your very own street…Obviously they were not very clever pre posting a video leading to their arrest, amateurs really. But that is the way of the lone wolf it seems.

Sydney terror raid: Two men arrested, hunting knife and flag seized

Machete, flag and video found in terror raid
  • Two men arrested at Fairfield home hours before atrocity, say police
  • Machete, large hunting knife and IS flag seized.
  • Video, allegedly featuring one of the men, referred to IS attack
  • Neighbours described their ‘disbelief’ and ‘fear’
  • Premier Mike Baird said details of the plot were ‘beyond disturbing’

THE two men arrested in terror raids yesterday had been living in a small granny flat at the back of a share house in Fairfield, where neighbours today spoke of their disbelief.

Omar Al-Kutobi, 24, and Mohammad Kiad, 25, were arrested at the flat on Riverview Rd, Fairfield about 4pm yesterday by the Joint Counter Terrorism Taskforce after a receiving information that an attack was imminent.

Police allege the pair had armed themselves with a machete and large hunting knife and were due to carry out a terror attack yesterday before police swooped.

Mohammad Kiad was arrested at his Fairfield home yesterday. Pitcutre: Supplied.

Mohammad Kiad. Picture: Supplied. Source: Supplied

Omar al-Kutobi and Mohammad Kiad. Pitcutre: Supplied.

Mohammad Kiad and Omar al-Kutobi. Picture: Supplied. Source: Supplied

Terror suspect Mohammad Kiad. Pitcutre: Supplied.

Omar al-Kutobi, a computer science student, and Mohammad Kiad, who moved into the property only last year. Pitcutre: Supplied. Source: Supplied

THE NEIGHBOUR

Roberto Macatangay has lived in a caravan at the back of the property and said he knew Mr Al-Kutobi, a computer science student, for about three years.

He said Mohammad Kiad moved into the property only last year.

“I’m scared that I’m living with these people, “ Mr Macatangay said. “They seemed to be really nice. They were sarcastic people but I didn’t mind that. We used to joke about religion, about Mohammad and Jesus Christ.”

The granny flat and car on Riverview street in Fairfield. Picture: Supplied

The granny flat and car on Riverview street in Fairfield. Picture: Supplied Source: News Corp Australia

The granny flat in Fairfield where two men hatched a plot to carry out a terror plot. Pic

The granny flat in Fairfield where two men hatched a plot to carry out a terror plot. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

The Fairfield house from the outside. Picture: Google

The Fairfield house from the outside. Picture: Google Source: Supplied

Mr Macatangay said he did not believe Kiad worked full-time, but may have been studying for a forklift licence, and often visited a nearby recreational centre to do weight-lifting.

The 25-year-old has permanent residency in Australia and Al-Kutobi was granted Australian citizenship last year, he said.

 They don’t mingle much
Manueal Abello, tenant in the main house 

On his Facebook site, Kiad listed himself as married but Mr Macatangay said the couple separated last year when he moved in with Al-Kutobi.

Neighbour Roberto Macatangay said he was ‘scared’ living next to two terror suspects. Pic

Neighbour Roberto Macatangay said he was ‘scared’ living next to two terror suspects. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

Inside the Fairfield granny flat raided by police yesterday. Two men have been charged wi

Inside the Fairfield granny flat raided by police yesterday. Two men have been charged with plotting a terror attack. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

The facade of the granny flat where the plan was hatched. Picture: Supplied.

The facade of the granny flat where the plan was hatched. Picture: Supplied. Source: News Corp Australia

Mr Macatangay, a pensioner who moved to Australia from Hong Kong three years ago, said he was at home when heavily armed police stormed the property yesterday afternoon.

They carried out a search warrant at the property, sifting through the granny flat and Mohammad’s car, parked in the street, until the early hours of this morning.

“I was totally surprised and really scared because the gun was pointing at me,” Mr Macatangay said.

“I was watching TV in my caravan and suddenly the electrics turned off. I saw the police, they had their faces covered up with helmet and heavy machine gun. I didn’t know what was happening.

“They asked me about the people living there.”

The small, white granny flat remained locked yesterday. A small religious prayer flag could be seen hanging in a back room of the flat, along with study books, clothes and drawers that had been pulled out and left on the floor.

A car belonging to one of the two men charged with plotting a terror attack remains on th

A car belonging to one of the two men charged with plotting a terror attack remains on the street after being searched by police. Source: News Corp Australia

THE TENANT AND THE OWNER

The owner of the property said Kiad and Al-Kutobi rented the two-bedroom granny flat at the back of the property for about $200 a week.

She said she had never been inside as they always kept it locked up.

Manuel Abello, a tenant in the main house, said the pair were nice but very private.

“They don’t mingle much,” he said.

“I never expected this at all. They are quite nice. Very rarely they have guests.” Kiad’s car is still parked out the front of the Fairfield property, with finger printing dust the only tell-tale signs of the police search on Tuesday.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn and Australian Federal Police Deputy Commis

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn and Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan address the media. Picture: AAP Image/Ava Benny-Morrison. Source: AAP

THE LAW

Police raided the men’s home and searched a car and where they work. Both men were charged with undertaking acts in preparation of planning a terrorist act and will face court this morning.

A number of items were seized in the raids including a machete, a hunting knife, a home-made flag representing terrorist organisation IS and a video which depicted a man talking about carrying out an attack.

Fairfield Local Court heard the pair have spoken with a lawyer, but he is unavailable to appear for them in court today.

The pair’s legal aid lawyer didn’t apply for bail on the mens’ behalf and it was formally refused by magistrate Vivien Swain. The men did not appear in court after asking not to be brought up from the cells.

Commonwealth DPP prosecutor Michael Allnut, centre, arriving at Fairfield court today whe

Commonwealth DPP prosecutor Michael Allnut, centre, arriving at Fairfield court today where two men appeared on terror charges. Picture: Ross Schultz Source: News Corp Australia

Commonwealth prosecutor Michael Allnutt told the court the matter should be moved to Central Local Court due to “security issues.”

 We believe the men were potentially going to….kill somebody
Catherine Burn 

Two sheriffs officers today were searching bags and scanning every person who entered the complex ahead of the appearance of the two men.

Magistrate Vivienne Swain adorned the case until tomorrow, when both bail applications are expected to be heard.

A terror plot foiled last year allegedly involved kidnapping a person from Martin Place a

A terror plot foiled last year allegedly involved kidnapping a person from Martin Place and executing them. Picture: Bradley Hunter Source: News Corp Australia

The men will be assisted in their applications by an Arabic interpreter.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn said it will be alleged that the two were going to undertake an act of terrorism in Australia as revenge for incidents overseas.

“What we are going to allege is consistent with the IS messaging,” she said.

“We believe that the men were potentially going to harm somebody, maybe even kill somebody, and potentially using one of the items that we identified and recovered yesterday, potentially a knife.”

She added that police will allege the attack was due to be carried out yesterday, with a video shaping to be a key piece of evidence.

Police do not know the nature of the alleged terrorist’s target but urged people to remain vigilant, whether that be police, military or the general public.

“And a really, really important message about that vigilance is that everybody needs to remain alert and no matter what that piece of information is, it is really helpful,” Deputy Commissioner Burn said.

Marcia Mikhael crying while holding a flag inside the Lindt Cafe. Souce: Channel 7.

Marcia Mikhael crying while holding a flag inside the Lindt Cafe. Source: Channel 7. Source: Channel 7

The pair were not known to police, and police say they were only made aware of the planned activity recently.

AFP deputy commissioner Michael Phelan said the threat was acted on as quickly as possible.

Premier Mike Baird said he could not comment on what the accused terrorists were planning, but said it was “beyond disturbing”.

“I was very concerned. You can’t help but be on edge given the events that we have seen last December, the events we’ve seen around the world. This is an ongoing battle, an ongoing fight,” Mr Baird said.

The Premier thanked police for foiling the terror plot.

Police in a previous raid last year spoke of a plot to behead someone in Martin Place. It is understood that alleged plot involved abducting a random Australian, executing them by beheading in a public place, possibly Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD, and filming the act and posting it on social media.

Australian fugitive Khaled Sharrouf who fled Australia to fight with Islamic extremist in

Australian fugitive Khaled Sharrouf who fled Australia to fight with Islamic extremist insurgents in Syria seen with other ISIS extremists. Source: News Corp Australia

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