FORMER AFL player Nick Stevens has been granted bail just hours after being jailed for domestic abuse.

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NO EXCUSES EVER Big tough footy player thinks it is ok to thump his ex-partner around and abuse and harrass her over the phone and in person. Jailed for 8 pathetic months and walks out the door on bail after appealing.

I hope she is in a safe place. This could potentially end in another tragedy. Disgusting…

“The 34-year-old, who played 231 games for Carlton and Port Adelaide before retiring in 2009, told his former girlfriend he was going to kill her and her dad after smashing her face into a tiled kitchen wall, the court heard.”

Convicted AFL abuser Stevens bailed

Former AFL player Nick Stevens

A former AFL player jailed for domestic abuse has been granted bail after filing an appeal. Source: AAP

LAWYERS for the former Carlton star are appealing his eight month jail sentence and his conviction for bashing and threatening his ex-girlfriend.

Stevens, 35, was found guilty of smashing his ex-girlfriend’s face into a kitchen bench and threatening to kill her and her father. He will return to court in April.

His 12 charges include assault, intentionally causing serious injury, threatening to kill and threatening to inflict serious injury.
He also pleaded guilty to breaching an intervention order after sending 2,500 text messages to the woman. The former footballer was ordered to serve eight months jail time, a 12 month community corrections order and pay a $400 fine.
Stevens’ lawyers are also appealing the penalty for the intervention order breach. In sentencing Stevens earlier on Wednesday, Magistrate Nunzio La Rosa said he showed no remorse and wouldn’t hesitate to manipulate the victim both psychologically and emotionally. He said after police laid charges against Stevens, he twice called the victim and threatened her.


Nick Stevens, former Carlton and Port Adelaide player, jailed over domestic violence charges

Updated 59 minutes ago

Former AFL footballer Nick Stevens, who showed “no remorse” after bashing his former partner, has been released on bail after being sentenced to eight months in jail on charges relating to domestic violence.

Stevens was found guilty in January of assault, threats to kill and intentionally causing injury to his ex-partner while they were dating in 2012 and 2013.

The 34-year-old, who played 231 games for Carlton and Port Adelaide before retiring in 2009, told his former girlfriend he was going to kill her and her dad after smashing her face into a tiled kitchen wall, the court heard.

He also caused grazing to her face on a separate occasion by pushing her head into the outside wall of a house, and pushed and kicked her when she threw wine at him during a fight.

In sentencing, Magistrate Nunzio La Rosa said Stevens had shown no remorse for his actions.

The magistrate said the pair had lived together and loved each other but “violence by men against women, put in an intimate setting, is to be opposed in stern terms”.

“That your career has suffered there is no doubt, but there is no legal basis to differentiate him from others simply because they have more to lose or have lost more,” Mr La Rosa said.

Stevens’ lawyer launched an appeal against the sentence and the former AFL star was released on bail until the hearing in April.

Outside court Stevens told reporters he respected the court’s decision and had no further comment.

The Ringwood Magistrates Court previously heard Stevens had also breached an intervention order more than 2,500 times in two months, mostly in text messages to his former girlfriend.

Many of the messages were abusive and threatened self-harm, the court also heard.

Stevens pleaded guilty to breaching the intervention order.

He had been coaching SANFL club Glenelg but was sacked after being found guilty of the charges.

Belle Gibson’s publisher has pulled her book from Australian shelves following accusations she faked her terminal brain cancer.


I SO WANTED TO LEAVE THIS BUT This saga keeps changing, there is no doubt now she faked much of her claims. The once award-winning young ladies life has come crashing down.

WE all fall from grace at one time or another in our life but this was of an epic scale, and the worst of the worst for cancer sufferers and survivors as well as supporters and family of those who are gone from our lives. her silence is deafening, but I hope other media come out as have Fairfax Media to state they have not paid anyone for any info on this story

(Which has been a big part of Belle’s rants since it broke. Saying others are making money off her now! )

Health blogger and app developer Belle Gibson hits back at ‘bullying’ critics
March 16, 2015 – 5:34AM

Allison Worral

Belle Gibson, creator of the app The Whole PantryBelle Gibson, creator of the app The Whole Pantry Photo: Jeffrey Glorfeld

Belle Gibson, the popular health blogger accused of falsely claiming to have cancer, has blasted her critics for speaking out against her.

Breaking her recent social media silence, Ms Gibson lashed out at former friends and acquaintances who had publicly doubted her claims of being ill, telling them to “make yourself invisible to me”.

The 23-year-old Melbourne woman founded health and wellbeing app The Whole Pantry, which has been under close scrutiny after it was revealed many of the charities the organisation had promised to donate to had not received any money.

Belle Gibson's book based around her The Whole Pantry app.

Belle Gibson’s book based around her The Whole Pantry app.

The Whole Pantry app, along with a Penguin book of the same name, promoted healthy living and Ms Gibson boasted natural foods and alternative therapies had fought off the multiple cancers she claimed to suffer.

But serious questions have been raised over the entrepreneur’s claims of surviving terminal brain cancer without treatment, as well as being diagnosed with four other types of cancer.

Former friends and work colleagues have accused Ms Gibson of lying about the extent of her illness, with some suggesting she may not have cancer at all.

On Friday night Ms Gibson hit back in a rambling Facebook post, sarcastically encouraging her followers to speak to the media if they needed to because “it says more about you, and your priorities than me or the story you’ll get paid to tell”.

Ms Gibson, who wrote of being “bullied to my death”, went on to defend the work of The Whole Pantry.

“…I know the work my company and it’s [sic] contents did changed hundreds of thousands for the better,” she wrote.

In another post she said those who had spoken publicly about her were “knowingly contributing to the blatant attacking and bullying of myself and my family”.

The Melbourne mother did not disprove claims she had lied about or exaggerated having cancer but promised an “open letter” was on its way.

Ms Gibson’s latest comments, posted under a Facebook alias, follow the recent removal of thousands of posts on her social media accounts.

Fairfax Media has not paid anyone for information about Belle Gibson


Whole Pantry cookbook PULLED from the shelves by Penguin after publisher casts doubt on health guru Belle Gibson’s brain cancer survival story

  • Penguin Books have decided to pull her book from Australian shelves
  • Blogger Belle Gibson, 23, is accused of faking her terminal brain cancer
  • She claimed eating well and using a natural approach to life saved her
  • Ms Gibson launched successfully popular The Whole Pantry app and book
  • More than 300,000 angry fans and customers have demanded a refund
  • They have taken to the company’s Facebook page to make a stand 
  • Her friends raised doubts about her survival story and charity donations
  • Former school mates have labelled the 23-year-old as a ‘drama queen’ 

Belle Gibson’s publisher has pulled her book from Australian shelves following accusations she faked her terminal brain cancer.

Penguin Books – who publishes Ms Gibson’s The Whole Pantry recipe book – shared the news with Daily Mail Australia via an email statement on Monday.

The book was written in conjunction with her hugely successful app of the same name, which focuses on health, wellness and lifestyle.

Australian blogger Belle Gibson (seen, left, with a bottle of champagne) has hit out at those who have accused her survival story of being fake

Clean-living Belle Gibson, seen here with a pint in her hand, told the friends who have spoken out about her to ‘make yourself invisible to me, and my life’

‘Despite our best endeavours, Penguin Books has not received sufficient explanation from Ms Gibson, author of The Whole Pantry recipe book, in response to recent allegations,’ the publisher said.

‘As such, we have been left with no other option but to stop supplying the book in Australia.

‘We remain hopeful that we will receive the formal assurances we have requested in the coming days.’

This follows Ms Gibson hitting back at the friends who have spoken publicly about her as old photos emerged of her enjoying alcohol.

In a long Facebook post, the Australian blogger told those who have spoken out about her to ‘make yourself invisible to me, and my life.’

The health fanatic shot to social media fame after claiming she had managed to ward off a terminal brain cancer diagnosis simply through eating well and using a natural and holistic approach to life.

Young mum: Close friends told Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday that Ms Gibson may have departed Australia for the United States this week

Back in July 2013, Ms Gibson posted on The Whole Pantry Facebook page about her ‘severe and malignant brain cancer’

Ms Gibson gave hope to cancer sufferers worldwide after she revealed that she had prolonged her life despite shunning conventional medical treatment and relying on her own ‘whole life’ concept.

But after doubt was cast over her claims, the Sydney Morning Herald reported she wrote to her friends on Facebook this weekend: ‘You are knowingly contributing to the blatant attacking and bullying of myself and my family.’

‘You’re not making the world an any (sic) better place by choosing to become part of the latest media snowball, remember that.’

Meanwhile, photos have emerged on Facebook of Ms Gibson holding a bottle of champagne to her mouth and sipping on a pint of beer before she became a clean-living star.

Social media users attempting to ‘expose’ Ms Gibson have begun posting images and old claims about her cancer on Facebook.

On Friday, she stood by her projects, writing: ‘…I know the work my company and it’s [sic] contents did changed hundreds of thousands for the better.’

On the same day, thousands of angry customers who bought healthy living app and book The Whole Pantry are demanding their money back after finding out founder Ms Gibson’s cancer story could be false.

Taking to The Whole Pantry’s Facebook page, some of the 300,000 people who downloaded the app have called for their money to be refunded and have slammed the mother-of-one for misleading her followers.

‘Lies, Lies and more Lies. I demand a refund,’ one unhappy customer said.

‘What kind of person fakes illnesses for attention. She has mental health issues and needs help. It scares me to think how many people have died following her natural therapy cancer treatment diet/lifestyle. Disgusting,’ another Facebook commenter said.

Ms Gibson has deleted thousands of photos and social media posts which directly reference her multiple cancer diagnoses, but an example of them – seen by Daily Mail Australia – can be found below:

Back in July 2013, Ms Gibson posted on The Whole Pantry Facebook page: ‘It’s unfortunate that there is someone on my Instagram trying to discredit the natural healing path I am on.’

She went on to say: ‘As always, with everything, this is my journey and I encourage you to do what is best for your body and situation with love and an open mind.

‘I have been healing a severe and malignant brain cancer for the past few years with natural medicine, gerson therapy and foods.

‘It’s working for me and I am grateful to be here sharing this journey with over 70,000 people worldwide. Thank you for being here – xx Belle.’

In a reference to her liver cancer, she posted on Instagram under her account @healing_belle, a photo of a pink smoothie enriched with ‘extra support’.

‘This one is for my rash (thanks, liver cancer), inflammation (thanks flying) and for general immunity.’

In another Instagram post she wrote: ‘Going from 6 weeks to live, to celebrating my fourth year with brain cancer, I know now that respecting your own journey and intuitively healing, listening and living as YOUR body, mind and path intended is staple.’

In July 2014, she broke the news of further illness to her followers through an impassioned post to her personal Instagram page.

It read in part: ‘With frustration and ache in my heart // my beautiful, gamechanging community, it hurts me to find space tonight to let you all know with love and strength that I’ve been diagnosed with a third and fourth cancer.

‘One is secondary and the other is primary. I have cancer in my blood, spleen, brain, uterus, and liver. I am hurting,’ Ms Gibson wrote.

About 12 weeks after the initial post she followed up, revealing she was undergoing ‘German integrative oncology protocol’.

The Whole Pantry (pictured above, in cookbook form) is also a popular app, which costs $3.79 to download. The app is slated to appear on the new Apple Watch

The Whole Pantry (pictured above, in cookbook form) is also a popular app, which costs $3.79 to download. The app is slated to appear on the new Apple Watch

The Whole Pantry founder's stories are being questioned as people demand answers from the health guru

The Whole Pantry founder’s stories are being questioned as people demand answers from the health guru

Many others called for the entrepreneur to face up to her lies and do the right thing. Questions have also been raised about her donations to charity.

She told her social media followers last year her brain cancer had spread to her blood, liver, spleen, uterus and that she did not expect to survive.

It has been reported that Ms Gibson has met with lawyers to fight the claims her story is fake.

School friends of the under-fire Whole Pantry founder now query whether the health guru invented stories ‘to get sympathy’ and have told how she warned people against vaccination while she was in high school.

Ms Gibson attended Wynnum State High School in Brisbane and former classmates describe the health guru as a ‘drama queen’ who constantly reinvented herself and backed medical cannabis. 

Former school friend Chris Green said Ms Gibson was ‘a drama queen. There was always something going on with her.’

‘At one stage she was an emo, then a skater girl then she was a surfer chick; she was always something different,’ Mr Green told The Courier Mail.

Mr Green also said that Ms Gibson never mentioned an autistic brother or a mother with multiple sclerosis, who she had previously claimed to be a carer for.

One anonymous school friend said that Ms Gibson would often post information advocating against vaccinations and pushed the viewpoint quite hard.

Former classmate Meg Weier said that Ms Gibson was quite strange.

Doting mother: Ms Gibson, pictured with another friend, founded the popular app and cookbook Whole Pantry

In another Instagram post she wrote: 'Going from 6 weeks to live, to celebrating my fourth year with brain cancer'

In another Instagram post she wrote: ‘Going from 6 weeks to live, to celebrating my fourth year with brain cancer’

Young mother: Ms Gibson, the mother of Olivier (pictured) has established a successful business in Whole Pantry

Young mother: Ms Gibson, the mother of Olivier (pictured) has established a successful business in Whole Pantry

Jayme Smith (pictured left, with her two children) met Belle Gibson online and maintained a friendship over social media until they had a falling out

Friends close to the mum-of-one have said that she may have gone overseas to avoid confronting claims that her remarkable cancer survival story is not all it seems.

Another former friend of Ms Gibson has called on her to ‘come clean’ on her ‘misdiagnosis’.

Mother-of-two Jayne Smith, 28, from Sydney, became a confidant of Ms Gibson’s after they met on a parenting discussion page on Facebook around 2010.

They forged an online friendship and confided over their experiences with cancer – Ms Smith having lost her mother to lung cancer in 2003 and Ms Gibson saying she had brain cancer.

BY THE NUMBERS: THE WHOLE PANTRY

  • Over 300,000 people have downloaded the app since its release 
  • The company failed to donate $300,000 that was promised to charities
  • The app costs $3.79AUD in Australia
  • Last year it was announced the app will be presented on the Apple Watch, which will come out on April 24, 2015 in Australia

Ms Smith told Daily Mail Australia she was ‘baffled’ when reports emerged this week where friends raised doubts about Ms Gibson’s medical diagnoses and charity donations.

‘I am just so shocked and I feel betrayed, that we all fell so hard for the illusion that she created,’ Ms Smith said.

‘It has hit all of us, who I know, (who) also know Belle, like a tonne of bricks.’

‘We only knew her online, but we all believed to a point that she was a genuine pioneer, who was surviving aggressive cancer.

‘Belle and I talked quite a bit about my feelings about (cancer), how she could empathise with me, the feelings I felt about my mother dying and how I’d wished I was more responsible when it happened, that I’d wished I had tried to explore more ideas, like Belle did.’

Ms Smith said Ms Gibson ‘pushed’ – and nearly convinced her – not to vaccinate her children, but that she did not blame her for nearly making that choice, which she ‘backed out of at the last minute’.

‘That was my own choice, based on information provided by Belle. I regret that choice (to nearly not vaccinate), but it was my own. I’m not here to place blame.’

In November 2014, Ms Gibson told Sunday Style magazine she blamed the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil for her cancer.

After friends and medical experts cast doubt on her medical claims in various media stories this week, Ms Gibson told The Australian she may have been ‘misdiagnosed’.

‘It’s hard to admit that maybe you were wrong,’ she told the newspaper, adding that she was ‘confused, bordering on humiliated’.

In a reference to her liver cancer, she posted on Instagram under her account @healing_belle, a photo of a pink smoothie enriched with 'extra support'

In a reference to her liver cancer, she posted on Instagram under her account @healing_belle, a photo of a pink smoothie enriched with ‘extra support’

The Whole Pantry, a popular app, gained media attention because of Ms Gibson's remarkable story about cancer survival 

The Whole Pantry, a popular app, gained media attention because of Ms Gibson’s remarkable story about cancer survival 

The company she founded, The Whole Pantry, said donations to charities that allegedly failed to arrive had been ‘accounted for and not processed’ and that promised donations ‘would be honoured’.

Ms Smith told Daily Mail Australia she was ‘baffled’ by this week’s allegations and was most upset about the hope Ms Gibson’s followers had invested in her program if she was being dishonest.

She said Ms Gibson had the ‘gift of the gab’ and ‘needs to answer to these people (her followers), because they are good hearted people who deserve answers’.

‘I don’t care about exposing Belle. I haven’t spoken to her for months, years.

‘I just want her to confirm or deny (her diagnoses) so people who put their faith in her, invested in her – they need to know.

‘They need to know, if they’ve rejected conventional medicine on what she’s saying.

‘It’s their lives, it’s not a game.’

Belle Gibson: the entrepreneur behind The Whole Pantry app

Ms Smith said of Belle Gibson (above): 'If I saw Belle now, I would just ask her to tell the truth. That's all I want'

Ms Smith said of Belle Gibson (above): ‘If I saw Belle now, I would just ask her to tell the truth. That’s all I want’

Ms Gibson wrote about how she chose a cancer patient called Joshua to 'donate 100% of app sales to' 

Ms Gibson wrote about how she chose a cancer patient called Joshua to ‘donate 100% of app sales to’ 

After three years of sometimes personal exchanges online, Ms Gibson and Ms Smith stopped talking after the development of the Whole Pantry app.

‘If I saw Belle now, I would just ask her to tell the truth. That’s all I want.

‘I don’t want to see her beg people for mercy. I don’t want her to beg for forgiveness – I just want the truth.

‘Come clean, be transparent, let the world know where you’re at. If you were misdiagnosed, own up to it.

‘Belle DID create an exceptional application, that is loved by many, but I think she should sell it for what it is, complimentary medicines and a diet – not life saving treatment.

‘All people want is the truth from her.’

Close friends told Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday that Ms Gibson may have left for the United States. Police visited her home on Tuesday night to check on her welfare, but she was not there.

Multiple calls to Ms Gibson’s mobile rang out.

IN TWEETS, BELLE GIBSON DESCRIBED HERSELF AS A ‘DISTINGUISHED PHYSCOPATH’ (SIC)

Amid claims that the entrepreneur behind The Whole Pantry app has fled to country, more details about Belle Gibson’s past are coming to light.

The young social media personality – who came under fire after claims her ‘terminal cancer’ and incredible survival story from the life-threatening illness were false – once described herself as a psychopath.

Ms Gibson has previously gone under the name of Annabelle Natalie Gibson, and tweeted in 2009: @bellmneb: ‘Is a distinguished physcopath (sic),’ the Herald Sun reported.

The next month she sent another tweet, from the account which appears to have been removed.

‘Obama won the nobel peace prize. This is more f***ed then (sic) the government giving me cancer. #obamawinsnobelprize,’ it read.

A Hunter man has pleaded guilty to killing seven puppies by bashing them over the head


A Hunter man has pleaded guilty to killing seven puppies by bashing them over the head with a rock in a horrific act of animal cruelty.

Nathan Thompson responded to an offer of a litter of free bull terrier cross puppies this week.

The pups were put up free of charge after the owner failed to sell them through online classifieds site Gumtree.

Thompson, 25, allegedly loaded the pups into his car on Wednesday and took them to bushland at Kurri Kurri, near Newcastle.

Police allege Thompson then began killing the puppies by hitting them on the head and throwing them in the bush.

A man walking his dogs saw the attack and confronted Thompson.

Thompson got into his car with five live pups and drove off, police say.

An RSPCA officer was called to the bushland where he found five dead pups and another two still clinging to life.

One pup died on the way to the vet.

The other – since named “Lucky” – survived and is recovering in the Rutherford Animal Shelter.

On Thursday night police arrested Thompson and charged him with animal cruelty offences.

RSPCA NSW Chief Inspector David O’Shannessy said Thompson also told police he killed four of the puppies that he fled with.

Another was given away.

Insp O’Shannessy said the person who gave the puppies away to Thompson was understandably shocked.

“It was his understanding that (Thompson) would take them on and find them a home, which he wasn’t able to do,” he said.

The RSPCA has used the horrific incident to remind people if they have an unwanted litter to bring to them to a reputable animal shelter.

Thompson faced a local court on Friday and pleaded guilty to three animal cruelty offences and resisting arrest.

He was granted bail on strict conditions, including that he not be alone with an animal without an adult present.

He is expected to be sentenced in April.

The Job Seeker Training Con- New legislation on track to stop the RIP OFFS


Plenty to come with this huge scam, no wonder private training “Colleges” and the like are popping up like flies to a pile of shit.

Money for nothing, scrounge as much money as you can from the hopeless job seekers and the desperate with pathetic unneeded useless courses unsuitable for their needs, and signing them to huge debt,  all for the gov kickbacks.

Falsifying applications, interviews, outcomes for more gov bonuses. What is yet to come, is the people behind some of these companies are retired or ex Federal and State MP’s who were smart (silly) enough to jump on the band wagon! These payments amount to billions over the time, and most in need get nothing out of it, nor have their circumstances improved.

The bloody rich get richer and the poor stay poor. Some involved with ICAC are yet to be exposed on gov contracts to house these gov job seeker services. Wrapping up long over valued leases.


UPDATE 11/03/15

New legislation to ban training providers from offering ‘miraculously’ short diploma courses

Training providers will be banned from offering “miraculously” short diploma courses, and from offering students incentives to sign up, under new legislation to be introduced by the Federal Government.

Assistant Training Minister Simon Birmingham said he was “very concerned” the Government’s vocational education loans scheme (VET FEE-HELP) was being abused and announced a range of measures to crack down on rogue providers.

“I’m very concerned about the range of distortions and abuse of the VET FEE-HELP scheme that’s occurring around Australia,” he told the ABC.

“I’ve had all too many examples of students who are being ripped off, vulnerable people taken advantage of, all of it being put on a tab for the taxpayer.

“So these reforms are designed to clamp down on dishonest behaviour, unethical behaviour amongst vocational education and training providers and make sure we restore integrity to a very important system.”

VET FEE-HELP is a HECS-style loans scheme that requires students to repay the Commonwealth once they earn a certain amount.

Senator Birmingham said he had heard “horrible stories” about dodgy training providers offering students laptops, meals, prizes and cash to sign up for courses that they did not need or would not lead to a job.

In some cases, he said students had been told the course in which they enrolled was free, when it was not.

“There’s no doubt that especially in relation to incentives and inducements for sign up, that has been a widespread activity over the last few months, if not couple of years since Labor opened up this system in 2012,” he said.

“Our reforms will shut the door on that.”

Under the changes, training providers would be required to have a minimum number of units of study in their diplomas and advanced diplomas, they would be banned from offering inducements or incentives to encourage students to sign up for courses, and they would be required to “properly assess” a student’s educational abilities before enrolment.

If the cost of these reforms is we see some dubious providers go out of business, then I’ll be quite happy to see that occur as long as we see a system that’s sustainable for the long haul.

Assistant Training Minister Simon Birmingham

Training providers would also be banned from accepting course fees in a single up-front transaction, to give students more time to consider their options.

“We are addressing the gaping holes that existed in the guidelines when Labor opened the scheme up in 2012 and making sure that through doing that, we restore some quality to the system,” Senator Birmingham said.

The Government estimated the changes would prevent students from taking out $16.3 billion in bad loans over the next 10 years, but Senator Birmingham admitted it would come at a cost to the sector.

“That will come at some cost to the industry, but ultimately I’m determined that these measures will shut down bad business models,” he said.

“If the cost of these reforms is we see some dubious providers go out of business, then I’ll be quite happy to see that occur as long as we see a system that’s sustainable for the long haul.”

According to Government figures, more than 180,000 students accessed the VET FEE-HELP scheme last year, taking out more than $1.6 billion in loans.


Update 4 Mar 2015

Evocca College under investigation by the Australian Skills Quality Authority after reports of low graduation rates

Update 4 Mar 2015

Figures obtained by the ABC show Evocca College has a graduation rate of about 10 per cent despite claiming more than $290 million in government funding via the VET FEE-HELP student loan scheme.

The figures show out of 38,213 students who signed up to its diploma courses in the past four years, only 2,058 were handed diplomas by October 2014.

There were 16,567 students who officially cancelled and 3,897 who timed out of the course.

The college said about 15,000 were still on track to graduate.

More than 20 former Evocca employees spoke to the ABC about questionable practices at the college after concerns about the training provider were first aired in January.

Since then the graduation rates of the college have been the subject of debate.

Now more allegations have come to light including that it enrolled students ill-equipped for diploma level courses without enough support, that it enrolled students who did not pass the required literacy test, and that it backdated tutor qualification forms to pass federal government audits.

Former staff claimed the college actively sought to hamper students who wanted to leave the college and cease adding to their government training debt.

An email obtained by the ABC shows the college sent an email to staff stating that “cancellation is a banned word”.

There’s a large amount of tax-payers’ money going into these colleges, it’s crucial tax-payers are getting value for money.

Australian Skills Quality Authority chief commissioner Chris Robinson

The college rejected suggestions it was taking advantage of the the VET FEE-HELP student training loan scheme, which was opened up to diploma courses in recent years.

In a statement, a company spokesman said they had a team of people dedicated to reaching out to students who were not attending.

“In cases where we have been through all possible processes endeavouring to re-engage a student, but have not been able to do so, we will cancel their enrolment, and have many thousands of documented cases to back this up,” he said.

The spokesman said the enrolment figures were not accurate and did not take into account “the flexible model that we deliver in allowing students more time than many other providers to complete their courses at no additional cost, which provides for differing levels of ability and also a variety of personal circumstances”.

It comes after a senate inquiry into the training loan scheme handed down its interim report on Monday.

Under VET FEE-HELP students can borrow up to $96,000 from the government for training, plus a 20 per cent loan fee, but not make repayments until they earn more than $53,000.

The loans attract interest in line with inflation (indexation) and the level of debt accrued can affect people’s ability to take out some types of loans in the future.

Free iPads ending up at pawn shops

One of the key criticisms of many new players in the diploma-level training market is the use of incentives such as free laptops and iPads to sign students up to courses, and ultimately training debts.

In Sydney’s west the Mega Cash pawn shop around the corner from Evocca’s Mt Druitt campus sees up to five students a day trying to pawn their computers.

“I was getting about five a day, last week,” manager Dean Rasmussen said.

“We can’t take the iPads because as the college tells us, they still own them until the student finishes the course so they cannot legally sell it or loan [it].”

There are similar reports in other states.

Evocca has 40 campuses around Australia and enrols about 15,000 students.

Evocca said the computers were loaned to students in line with a scheme with Federal Government approval.

“They are provided as a necessary tool with which students may become familiar with technology and also complete their studies, especially as many do not have the immediate wherewithal to purchase their own,” a spokesman said.

Former employee Steven Fogerty said the computers were useless as learning tools because they did not come equipped with relevant learning software such as Microsoft Office.

“The concept of giving students an iPad is purely an incentive because they’re a toy,” he said.

Regulator to investigate

The federal regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority, said it has been investigating a number of complaints about Evocca.

Chief commissioner Chris Robinson said some related to recruitment practices and others related to its operations.

He said the ABC raised new allegations the regulator was not aware of.

“We certainly are concerned about some of [the allegations],” he said.

“It would be very good if people have information and concerns in the way Evocca has operated to come through ASQA.”

He said the regulator audited 4,000 colleges in the past three years and suspended or chose not to renew many providers.

“Certainly not enough providers are fully compliant at all times,” he said.

“There’s a large amount of tax-payers’ money going into these colleges, it’s crucial tax-payers are getting value for money.”

Staff come forward

More than 20 former Evocca employees have come forward to the ABC with concerns about the college’s operation.

Mr Fogerty was a business management tutor at Mt Druitt campus for six months.

He said they regularly discussed at morning meetings the low educational ability of students recruited by the company’s sales agents.

“We’d all say we know this is wrong,” he said.

In vocational training, students typically progress through Certificates I to III or IV before undertaking a diploma level course, unless they have extensive workplace experience.

Mr Fogerty said he had one student who had vision and hearing impairments who was enrolled despite not writing 100 words as required by the Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) entrance test.

This student was then given little or no extra support despite his impairments.

“They would let anyone into this college. Your intellectual abilities were not even considered,” he said.

“If you were an Australian citizen and you could sign your name, you’re in.”

Other students included migrants with poor English skills, single mothers and elderly people, many of whom he said did not get appropriate learning support.

Evocca said it had a thorough pre-enrolment process that ensured students understood the requirements and were capable of completing the course.

“It is due to these self-imposed standards of closely vetting any potential student that, although we receive many thousands of inquiries annually, only 14 per cent of these result in enrolments,” a company spokesman said.

Claims of backdating forms

Former Queensland branch manager Michelle Naylor said when the college was audited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority it deliberately backdated staff qualification paperwork to pass the audit.

“We were asked to go through everyone’s qualifications,” she said.

“If they didn’t have qualifications we were asked to sign a form called Working Under Supervision and unfortunately I had to backdate a couple of those to the term the tutors commenced work.

“I didn’t know I was supervising them, I thought they had qualifications and experience.

“I knew I was doing the wrong thing.”

The college denied any wrongdoing and said it would “update” paperwork of those who were required to be supervised while they were in the process of obtaining their Certificate IV in Workplace Training.

“This was an internal administrative process, which was in part designed to ensure some transparency and accountability for those who were undertaking this training, to ensure that it was completed in a timely manner, and that those being supervised were of an acceptable standard,” a spokesman said.

Students say they lose out

Dylan Palmer would travel three hours each day to study digital gaming at Evocca’s Brisbane campus.

He was referred to the course by a friend who received $100 cash from Evocca and Dylan received a free laptop.

“It was a lot of fun at first but as I went on it kind of jumped from point A to point C without ever really explaining point B and it just got really confusing for me,” he said.

I did struggle. It was very, very hard. There’s nothing for disabilities. They’ve got nothing in place, no protocols, nothing.

Leanne Fraser

The 21-year-old has Asperger’s syndrome and said he did not receive sufficient support.

“Sometimes they’d just say ‘watch the video again’.”

He now has a $27,000 VET FEE-HELP debt.

Also in Queensland, single mother Leanne Fraser would travel two hours each day for a diploma in tourism.

She has multiple sclerosis and said there was no help for students with a disability.

“I did struggle. It was very, very hard,” she said.

“There’s nothing for disabilities. They’ve got nothing in place, no protocols, nothing.”

A college spokesman said the Evocca teaching model was based on doing everything it could to support students.

“[There is] a robust system in place for the ongoing management of students, including regular one-to-one catch ups with tutors, to ensure that these objectives are achieved.”


23rd February 2015

Unemployment in Australia is at its highest in 12 years. The Government’s solution is an innovative billion-dollar scheme called Jobs Services Australia. But the initiative is failing.

Now, a Four Corners investigation shows how the scheme is being manipulated and, at times, systematically exploited. Reporter Linton Besser reveals the corruption at the heart of the program aimed at helping some of this country’s most vulnerable people.

He travels to suburbs where unemployment is a way of life. He meets Kym, struggling to find work and pull her daughter out of a cycle of poverty.

There to help are private and not-for-profit job agencies, paid by the Government to help find work for Kym and others like her. These agencies have blossomed thanks to the privatisation of the Commonwealth Employment Service in 1998, and are thriving on contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Unemployment is now big business in Australia. Each year the Government spends about $1.3 billion on its welfare to work scheme.

But what happens when there are simply not enough jobs to go around?

What Four Corners discovers is a system open to abuse where the unemployed have become a commodity. Some agencies bend the rules, others break them.

“I would say about 80 percent of claims that come through have some sort of manipulation on them.” – Agency whistleblower

Four Corners goes inside the industry, finding shocking evidence of fraud, manipulation, falsified paperwork, and the recycling of the unemployed through temporary jobs.

Hours are bumped up, wages are inflated, and in many cases, vital evidence to support claims from the taxpayer appears to have been falsified. One former jobseeker tells Four Corners her paperwork appears to have been completely forged.

In recent years Government checks have forced some companies to pay back millions of dollars, but few are sanctioned. Former job agency employees say crucial internal records are adjusted in preparation for government audits.

“That, I guess, caused alarm bells for me… Claims that have been claimed, signatures that weren’t on them, and we were sort of told, you know, if the signature’s not on it, get it any way that you can.” – Former job agency employee

As the nation grapples with rising unemployment, Four Corners raises uncomfortable questions about the charities and profit-takers making a buck from Australia’s jobless.

“THE JOBS GAME”, reported by Linton Besser and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 23rd February at 8.30pm on ABC. The program is replayed on Tuesday 24th February at 10.00am and Wednesday at midnight. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm, ABC iview


Government recovers over $41 million worth of false claims after ‘rorting’ of Job Services Australia scheme

23/02/15

The Federal Government has clawed back more than $41 million worth of false claims by private employment agencies in just the past three years.

The agencies are contracted by the Government under a privatised welfare-to-work program called Job Services Australia, a sprawling $1.3 billion-a-year scheme designed to get the unemployed into work.

A Four Corners investigation has found rorting of the scheme is rampant. Forgery, manipulation of records and the lodgement of inflated claims for fees are widespread.

One former agency employee said he had seen “thousands” of jobseeker records doctored by his agency to support suspect claims against the taxpayer.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, have been recouped at times by the department.

Rupert Taylor-Price

The managing director of a private employment agency told Four Corners: “There are incentives to be involved in sharp practices from a financial and performance perspective.”

“We had to do the same thing [because] everyone was doing it,” the source said.

“The Government does not want to expose the whole industry.”

Three years ago a top-level inquiry into just one type of fee found spectacular rates of failure, forcing cancellation of that particular fee and prompting industry-wide ructions.

Ominously, the inquiry noted that just 40 per cent of the claims it examined could be confirmed by documentary evidence, or by the testimony of jobseekers and their employers.

The Abbott administration has made some changes to the scheme that take effect mid-way through this year.

But critics say these changes will do little, if anything, to stop widespread gaming of the contract.

Only one in 10 enjoy ‘a better chance of gaining employment’

The ABC has learned that fraud investigators attached to the Department of Employment have launched probes into many of the major agencies contracted to the program since its inception in 1998.

For-profit companies, including the market leader, Max Employment, have been investigated for particular allegations, as well as well-loved Australian charities including the Salvation Army.

There are a variety of means by which the contract is exploited.

The ABC is not suggesting that any particular agency is engaged in the full range of rorts, or other means by which the contract can be optimised.

But despite a long parade of whistleblowers detailing allegations of the misappropriation of taxpayer funds by some agencies, and highly questionable practices by others, the government has declined to detail instances where it has ever sanctioned any single agency operating under the scheme.

But what the department does is only reclaim those from the failures it finds. So even if you are going to put in claims that have a failure rate, you’re still going to have a lot of them not found and keep the money … there’s still an incentive to make the claim.

Rupert Taylor-Price

In one case to be examined on Four Corners, investigators were forced to shelve their inquiries when they discovered a departmental official had explicitly told the agency that it could still collect fees for services the Government knew had never been delivered.

Rupert Taylor-Price, whose software company analyses government data generated by the program, says the scheme is being routinely “optimised” to the detriment of jobseekers.

“Hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, have been recouped at times by the department,” Mr Taylor-Price said.

“But what the department does is only reclaim those from the failures it finds.

“So even if you are going to put in claims that have a failure rate, you’re still going to have a lot of them not found and keep the money … there’s still an incentive to make the claim.”

He says he believes only one in 10 participants in the program enjoy “a better chance of gaining employment”.

The program was created 17 years ago, when the Howard government effectively privatised the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES).

The new policy created a pseudo-marketplace of jobseekers who were forced under Centrelink’s rules to attend private agencies, which would be paid to find them work.

Since then, more than $18 billion has been spent on the welfare to work program – first labelled Job Network, and now known as Job Services Australia.

It has been a cheaper scheme than the CES, but critics say it has also been far less helpful at assisting long-term unemployed people back into work.

‘You can’t make people search for jobs that aren’t there’

Academics and experts have repeatedly pointed out the glaring paradox at the heart of the program: how can these agencies have any impact on the unemployed when the number of jobless far outstrip the number of job vacancies?

“[The welfare to work program] patently hasn’t worked,” said Professor Bill Mitchell, director of Newcastle University’s Centre of Full Employment and Equity.

“It’s an impossible task … there’s not enough jobs to go around. You can’t make people search for jobs that aren’t there, and that’s the dilemma of the whole system.

“We’ve had a demand-side constraint – not enough jobs – and all this vigorous energy and money being poured into a supply-side initiative as if that’s the problem.”

Periodically, the jobs program has been mired in scandal. A major Productivity Commission inquiry in 2002 made adverse findings about the program, including that the long-term unemployed were being “parked”.

It’s absolutely vulnerable to exploitation.

Former senior departmental investigator

Just three years after Job Network was launched, one prominent job agency was accused of shovelling thousands of people into phoney jobs.

In what has become a pattern, a subsequent inquiry cleared the agency of fraud but demanded the repayment of thousands of dollars.

Insiders have told Four Corners that department managers have been reluctant to tighten up the program’s governing contract to prevent blatant rip-offs.

“It’s absolutely vulnerable to exploitation,” said a former senior departmental investigator.

He said he had significant doubts about the will of successive governments to root out the fraud perpetrated against the contract.

“The department was more interested in getting its money back [than sanctioning agencies] … it’s very politically-driven,” the former investigator said.

The Department of Employment provided figures to Four Corners which showed that millions of dollars are routinely recouped from agencies, as a result of audits, self-identification by agencies and other “program assurance activities”.

In 2011–2012, $8.34 million was recovered.

The figure spiked to $23.81 million the following year after the inquiry into one particular type of fee.

And last year, another $9.12 million was reclaimed.

A department spokesman said typical repayments by agencies amounted to “less than 1 per cent of the amount paid each year”, and said it had “robust systems” to detect inappropriate claims for fees.

He would not answer a series of specific questions about past or current investigations conducted by the department.

“In cases of suspected fraud, matters are referred to agencies such as the Australian Federal Police and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions,” the spokesman said.

“Since 2006 the Department has made 38 referrals to the appropriate authorities.”

Background Information

RESPONSES TO FOUR CORNERS

Statement by Catholic Care in response to Four Corners

Statement in response – Four Corners Interview Request | 30 January, 2015

Statement by Salvation Army in response to Four Corners | 5 February, 2015

Statement by the Department of Employment in response to Four Corners

Statement from the Assistant Minister for Employment, the Hon Luke Hartsuyker MP in response to Four Corners

RESEARCH

Letter of concern regarding the Job Network | November 1999

Job Services Australia review and evaluation | Department of Employment | 2014

Labour Force Figures, January 2015 | Australian Bureau of Statistics

Management of Services Delivered by Job Services Australia | Australian National Audit Office | 2013/14

ACOSS submission to APESAA | 2012

Rethinking Australia’s Employment Services | Whitlam Institute | UWS | 2011

A review of developments in the Job Network | Research Paper | Paliamentary Library | 24 December, 2007

Centerlink Quarterly Breach Data | Participation and activity test requirements and penalties for workforce age payments | 20 September 2003

Wage Subsidies | Job Access

Parliamentry Debate | Job Network question to Tony Abbott then Minister for Employment Services | 7 December, 1998

MEDIA

Unemployment | Topic Page | ABC News | Regularly Updated

Young Australians are not giving up on work, despite high unemployment | The Guardian | 17 February 2015

REMINDER: Why employment and unemployment are both rising in Australia | Business Insider | 16 February 2015

Social Service Agency Reacts to Welfare Contractor’s Controversy | Voice of OC | 17 June, 2014

Australia Unemployment Rate 1978-2015 | Trading Economics | 12 February, 2015

Job seeker funding still open to fraud, despite fee reforms | Sydney Morning Herald | 22 April, 2013

Federal Agency Finds Workfare Contractor Violated Wage Law | New York Times | 1 September, 2000

RELEVANT LINKS

Job Services Australia | The Australian Government employment services system that supports job seekers and employers.

Jobs Australia | The national peak body for nonprofit organisations that assist unemployed people to get and keep jobs

Max Solutions Training

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


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

Perth counsellor Allan Huggins admits struggling with attraction to teens


Perth counsellor Allan Huggins admits struggling with attraction to teens when he touched two boys

Mon 9 Feb 2015, 9:35pm

A Perth counsellor has admitted to inappropriately touching two boys while struggling to deal with his homosexuality, but denied sexually abusing other boys in his care.

Allan Keith Huggins, 68, is on trial in the West Australian District Court, charged with 49 offences stemming from when he was an education officer at the Warminda school-to-work program in 1990 and 1991.

He testified on Monday that he had told two clinical psychologists at the time he was attracted to teenage boys and had touched two youths unrelated to this trial.

“I was in therapy and I was trying to unburden myself,” he said.

Huggins told the court he was having difficulty adjusting to being gay and did not want to hurt his wife and children.

He also attributed some of his attraction to boys to having been abused when he was aged between seven and 12.

“I just sucked it up and lived with it all my life, but I was aware that it had created a problem,” Huggins said.

But he denied the crimes for which he was on trial, including touching, masturbation, sexual penetration and oral sex.

Huggins rejected allegations put to him by prosecutor Bernard Standish, including performing oral sex on one boy and repeatedly telling him to be brave.

“I don’t think so, no, not at all,” he said.

Huggins also rejected the assertion he swam in a pool with two boys and touched the genitals of one boy before threatening them not to tell anyone.

“I’m not the threatening type,” Huggins said.

When Mr Standish suggested the boys in the program needed help because of their troubled childhoods, Huggins replied: “Absolutely, and I was on their side.”

The trial continues.


Police failed to act on child sexual abuse complaint against Allan Huggins, victim says

Wed 28 Jan 2015, 5:21pm

A Perth man says he never heard from police again after he told officers a former school counsellor sexually abused him, the District Court has heard.

The man was giving evidence at the trial of Allan Keith Huggins, 68, who is accused of abusing seven boys in the 1990s.

The man testified he was a ward of the state when he attended a government program for troubled boys in East Victoria Park.

He described Mr Huggins as like the “headmaster” of the program, and said on one occasion, in 1990 or 1991, when he was about 13, he was taken to his office, where the door was shut and locked and he was sexually abused.

The man said he ran out of the building and went to his aunt’s house, where he told her Huggins had touched him.

He testified his aunt then went to East Victoria Park to confront Mr Huggins.

The man said later, when he was in juvenile detention, he was visited by two police officers and asked about the allegation.

“I specifically remember saying I did want him charged,” the man told the court.

“I never heard from them again.”

The court heard that in 2013 the man made an application for compensation under a system called Redress, and police again investigated his complaint.

Mr Huggins has pleaded not guilty to all 49 charges against him.

Danny Deacon, ex of Darwin mother Carlie Sinclair, arrested on suspicion of murder


They got him Danny Deacon , THE EX as most folks thought, after he allegedly returned to burial site, thank god for the family and friends who have fought so hard to keep the investigation alive, and the hard work at the NT POLICE force be those dedicated to find justice. Covert surveillance in this day and age is a huge investigative tool in all sorts of situations…Remember Kiesha? He pathetic parents (stepfather) caught a taxi to her burial site and the cops were waiting…

Missing woman Carlie Sinclair (inset) and her partner Danny Deacon, pictured speaking at a police press conference.
PHOTO: Danny Deacon said the last time he saw Carlie Sinclair (inset) they had a row before she walked off. (Supplied)

The former partner of Darwin mother Carlie Sinclair has been arrested on suspicion of her murder, sources have told the ABC.

Danny Deacon was arrested today after being seen close to where a body, thought to be Ms Sinclair’s, was found near Berry Springs, in Darwin’s rural area.

Police Commissioner John McRoberts would not name the man they had arrested, but said he had recently returned from interstate.

“I will say at this stage that he was known to Ms Sinclair and that’s as far as I can take it,” he said.

“The man that has been arrested left the Northern Territory soon after the disappearance of Ms Sinclair and has only just returned, in fact less than 24 hours ago.

Mr Deacon was the last known person to see Ms Sinclair, when she left a business in the Darwin suburb of Parap.

Mr Deacon told investigators the pair had had an argument while having a drink, and she walked off.

Body found in shallow grave

Mr McRoberts said a body, believed to be Ms Sinclair’s, had been found at Berry Springs, in Darwin’s rural area.

Police near the gravesite of Carlie Sinclair
PHOTO: Police near the gravesite of Carlie Sinclair at Berry Springs, near Darwin. (ABC News: James Dunlevie)

Mr McRoberts described the arrest as a “significant development”.

“Earlier today, as a result of a man being seen in the Berry Springs area, he has been arrested and we are now holding him in custody until the results are known of a comprehensive crime scene analysis which is currently underway,” Mr McRoberts said.

“Based on the information we have, including comments made by the man, we are very confident that we know where Carlie is, although it will take us some hours, or possibly not even until tomorrow to be able to tell her family that we have, in fact, confirmed her identity and where she is.

Mr McRoberts said he expected there would be more details from the crime scene later today.

“Based on all the evidence that has been compiled, based on the fact that we now have a man in custody, based on the fact that we now have what is clearly a gravesite at Berry Springs, we are very confident that we have solved the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Ms Sinclair,” he said.

Ms Sinclair, 36, has not been seen since the evening of July 18, 2013, with police mounting a widespread publicity campaign to find her and offering a reward of $250,000 for information.

Mr McRoberts said information from members of the public was significant in helping the piece together their case.

Police said Ms Sinclair was last seen leaving the Parap decorative concrete business she ran.

She was then spotted on CCTV at a BP service station at nearby Fannie Bay.

Police at the crime scene near Berry Springs
PHOTO: Police at the crime scene and suspected gravesite of Darwin mother Carlie Sinclair near Berry Springs.(ABC News: James Dunlevie)

Police said Ms Sinclair had not been in contact with her son, Alex, since disappearing and had not accessed her bank account or used her mobile phone.

“Her sudden disappearance was completely out of character, and after being advised police immediately held grave concerns for her welfare,” Mr McRoberts said.

“It was simply too much to believe that Carlie would leave Alex behind.”

In January, the NT Supreme Court granted the Public Trustee management of Ms Sinclair’s estate, which included a property in Stuart Park, and several vehicles and bank accounts.

The media are being taken to the suspected gravesite at Berry Springs.


 Carlie Sinclair – Missing for Six Months

Wednesday 18-Dec-2013 12:31

Six months ago, little Alex Deacon’s mum, Carlie Sinclair, disappeared, sparking a Major Crime investigation that continues to build momentum.

The Northern Territory Police Major Crime Squad have been vigilant in their intelligence gathering and investigation, and are focussed on finding some closure for Carlie’s family.

“It has now been six months since Carlie was last seen alive,” said the head of Operation Samburu, Detective Sergeant Tony Henrys.

“In the lead up to Christmas, spare a thought for little Alex who will not be able to spend Christmas Day, Carlie’s birthday, with his mum.”

Carlie Sinclair was last seen alive by her partner Danny Deacon at their business premises, ‘Darwin Decorative Concrete’, late in the evening of Tuesday June 18.

Acting on information received early on in the investigation, Detectives and members of the Territory Response Group searched bushland and water courses in the vicinity of Parap, Stuart Park and Berry Springs. A search warrant was also executed at a Parap location, with soil samples gathered.

Two vehicles of interest were nominated back in early July, and Detectives are still calling for anyone who may have witnessed a white Hi-Ace van or late model silver Toyota Rav 4 around the Parap, Stuart Park, Cox Peninsular Road or Berry Springs area on the evening of June 18 or before midday on June 19 to contact Police.

“Detectives involved in this investigation are not prepared to give up. Every tiny shred of information is being thoroughly examined,” said Detective Sergeant Henrys.

“We would like to thank the community for their support thus far, and Police are very keen to speak to anyone who has information about Carlie’s disappearance.

“Somebody knows something. Somebody has the vital piece of information that will help us piece together this suspicious disappearance, and find some justice for Carlie, her parents, and her two-year-old son, Alex.

Carlie’s mother and father, Marlene and Robert, and brother, Kristian, have not given up on finding Carlie, and urge anyone with any information about Carlie’s disappearance to contact Police.

“Next Wednesday, while everyone celebrates Christmas with their families, we will be still wondering what happened to Carlie,” said Marlene Sinclair, Carlie’s Mum.

“If you know anything, anything at all, please call the Police. The small piece of information you have may be just what the Police need to make a breakthrough.”

You can report information to the Police anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

“Since the day the matter was reported to Police a team of investigators have been working on this case. We have not stopped and will not stop.”

“We continue to follow up on a number of matters and revise the evidence, statements and information we have already collected, looking for new leads to act on.

“We are determined to find out what happened to Carlie and to locate any person or persons that may have been involved in her disappearance,” concluded Detective Sergeant Henrys.

If you have information about the suspicious disappearance of Carlie Sinclair, please contact Police on 131 444, or make an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. You may be eligible for a reward.


                                         Carlie SINCLAIR

Police hold grave concerns for the wellbeing of missing mother of one, Carlie Sinclair, who has not been seen since the evening of Tuesday 18 July 2013 and are calling on assistance from the public to locate her.

Ms Sinclair, who resides in Stuart Park, was last seen on the evening of Tuesday 18 June and has not been heard from since. Ms Sinclair is described to be of Caucasian appearance, solid/heavy build, with blonde hair which she wears in a pony tail. She was last seen wearing a black mini-skirt, a horizontal striped black and white top with sleeves and brown ‘Havaianas’ thongs.

Police urge anyone who may have seen Carlie, who may have had contact with her since Tuesday, or who may know of her whereabouts, to contact Police on 131 444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Northern Territory Police Force

Missing Woman Carlie Sinclair – Update

Northern Territory Detectives investigating the suspicious disappearance of Ms Sinclair from Parap on Tuesday 18 June are currently searching an area in Acacia.

Detective Senior Sergeant Tony Henrys from the Major Crime Squad said Police had received fresh information concerning a vehicle in the vicinity of Livingstone Road.

“We are concentrating on an area of bushland and water courses close to the road. Members from the TRG and Crime Command are using a helicopter to co ordinate the search.

“Police continue to hold grave concerns for the welfare of Ms Sinclair and urge any person who has information to come forward.”

Anyone who may have information is asked to call Police on 131 444 or they may make an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Christmas is Carlie Sinclair’s birthday – she has been missing for six months

SIX months ago a Territory woman disappeared from Parap sparking a major crime investigation.

Carlie Sinclair was last seen by her partner Danny Deacon at their business premises, Darwin Decorative Concrete, in the evening of Tuesday June 18.

Her two-year-old son, Alex Deacon, will spend Christmas – also Carlie’s birthday – without his mum.

Acting on information received early on in the investigation, detectives and members of the Territory Response Group searched bushland and water courses in the vicinity of Parap, Stuart Park and Berry Springs. A search warrant was also executed in Parap, with soil samples gathered.

Police are also still seeking anyone who may have seen a white Hi-Ace van or late model silver Toyota Rav 4 around the Parap, Stuart Park, Cox Peninsular Road or Berry Springs area on the evening of June 18 or before midday the following day.

“Somebody knows something. Somebody has the vital piece of information that will help us piece together this suspicious disappearance, and find some justice for Carlie, her parents, and her two-year-old son, Alex,” said head of Operation Samburu, Detective Sergeant Tony Henrys.

Det Sgt Henrys thanked the community for their support so far.
Carlie’s mother and father, Marlene and Robert, and her brother Kristian, have not given up hope of finding Carlie and urge anyone with information about her disappearance to contact police.

People can do so by ringing 131444 or making an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. 

Hopes re-enactment could bring results one year after Carlie Sinclair went missing

POLICE have scoured waterways, bushland and drains; they have doorknocked homes, reviewed CCTV footage and made several high-profile calls for help.

Still the desperate search for Darwin mum Carlie Sinclair continues.A year on from her disappearance, four Northern Territory detectives are working full-time on the baffling case: re-examining evidence, reinterviewing people and poring over old statements.

It is all they can now do to bring closure to her loving family – parents Marlene and Robert, brother Kristian and, most importantly, her three-year-old son Alex.

Carlie, who would now be 36, was last seen by partner Danny Deacon at their Parap business, Darwin Decorative Concrete, on the evening of June 18, 2013. Mr Deacon told investigators the pair had an argument during a drink and she walked off.

Police suspect foul play and Mr Deacon, who has since moved to Perth, remains the only suspect.

“He was the last person to see her and he was in a domestic relationship with her,” investigator Acting Commander Tony Fuller said.

“He will remain a suspect until he’s eliminated.”

But building a case is difficult with no body and the trail has gone cold.

Acting Commander Fuller would not comment on the couple’s relationship, what evidence police have uncovered, or what lines of inquiry they were pursuing. But he said there were no “fresh” leads and her bank cards had not been touched since June 18.They have ruled out suicide and her devotion to Alex has all but ruled out the possibility she ran away.

“The mostly likely scenario is she met with foul play that night, by person or persons unknown to us at this stage,” Commander Fuller said.

Tomorrow it will be exactly one year since Carlie was last seen alive and police are making another public push for information.

“There must be someone out there who saw something or heard something that quite possibly hasn’t heard about Carlie’s disappearance,” Acting Commander Fuller said.

“It gets taxing over time, but those officers are very committed and they’ve only got one thing on their mind – that’s to get answers for young Alex.”

Police want to speak to anyone who has information, or who saw a white HiAce van or late-model silver Toyota RAV4 around the Parap, Stuart Park, or rural areas on the evening of June 18 or before noon the next day. Information can be given anonymously to police on 131 444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

A Channel Nine special featuring re-enactments and interviews with Carlie’s family, friends and partner Danny Deacon will air tomorrow night in the hope of prompting someone to come forward with information.The project, shot on a shoe-string budget, has been more than four months in the making and taken presenter Jonathan Uptin and senior cameraman Graham Morrison beyond Darwin to Perth and Brisbane.

The re-enactments feature volunteer actors and are meticulous on detail, right down to the make and model car Carlie was driving when she went missing.

“One of the best things was there were so many people who volunteered their time and resources – these are people who didn’t want money,” Mr Uptin said. “Hopefully we’ll get a breakthrough; someone might be able to come forward.

“It’s something I’ve become emotionally invested in – it’s absorbed my life and I really want closure for the family. It sounds cliche but it’s true.”

The half-hour special will air at 6.30pm and lead into the second State of Origin clash between NSW and Queensland on Nine.

HOW IT UNFOLDED

JUNE 18, 2013: Carlie Sinclair is last seen by partner Danny Deacon at their Parap business, Darwin Decorative Concrete.

JUNE 28, 2013: Police search an area off Livingstone Rd, Acacia, after a tip-off Mr Deacon’s 4WD was seen in the area on June 18. It is one of several searches.

JULY 3, 2013: Mr Deacon asks Carlie to come home, saying: “Carlie, if you can hear this, you need to know that we both miss you very much, Alex and I are struggling on a daily basis.”

JULY 18, 2013: Mr Deacon reveals police have been watching his every move. He tells the NT News: “It is not nice being accused of it but at the end when you face reality that is what I expect them to do.”

DECEMBER 22, 2013: Days before what should have been Carlie’s 36th birthday, police and mother Marlene issue another public appeal for assistance.

JUNE 17, 2014: The eve of the one-year anniversary of Carlie’s disappearance. Police still count Mr Deacon as the only suspect, but say there are no fresh leads.


 

 $250,000 reward offered to find Carlie Sinclair

A $250,000 reward is now being offered for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the disappearance of Darwin mother, Carlie Sinclair in 2013.

The reward includes a recommendation of indemnity from prosecution for any accomplice who gives information leading to a conviction, provided he or she did not actually commit the crime.

Chief Minister Adam Giles announced that the Government had approved a reward to help Police in their search for the person or persons who may have taken the life of Sinclair.

“Around midnight on Tuesday June 18 last year, Police believe the young mum left her business address at number 209 Stuart Highway in Parap after an argument with her partner,” Mr Giles said.

“She left behind her personal belongings, her car and her young son.

“She has not contacted her family or friends since which relatives say is completely out of character.

“Her bank accounts have not been touched since the day she was last seen and Police suspect she may have been murdered.”

Despite an intensive, year-long Police investigation, they have been unable to find her or those responsible for her disappearance.

A team of detectives has interviewed witnesses, viewed CCTV footage, conducted aerial and ground searches of the local area and organised information stands in Parap to no avail.

It is hoped that the offer of this substantial reward may provide an incentive for someone to come forward with what they know, saw or heard.

“A single piece of information, no matter how small, may hold the key to solving this crime,” Mr Giles said.

“Carlie Sinclair’s family, particularly her young son, deserve answers about what happened to her and who was responsible.

“I urge anyone with information to contact 131 444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.”

The allocation of the reward will be at the discretion of the Police Commissioner.

Police struggle in search for Carlie Sinclair, $250,000 reward offered

Northern Territy Police say they are at the end of the line in their investigation into the disappearance of Darwin mother Carlie Sinclair, and are announcing a $250,000 reward to try an re-ignite interest in the case.

Ms Sinclair disappeared on June 18 last year, and Police Commissioner John McRoberts said the anniversary was a good time to try and get fresh leads.

“Rewards are something that are considered when the investigation gets to a point at which we have exhausted all other avenues. We are now at that point,” Mr McRoberts said.

“I think it is also fitting that we use the 12-month anniversary as an ideal opportunity to generate a great deal of public interest,” he said.

It is kown that Ms Sinclair left her business in Parap with her partner Danny Deacon at their Parap business, Darwin Decorative Concrete.

She was not seen again and her bank accounts have not been touched since in the past 12 months.

She was the mother of a three-year-old boy, Alex, when she went missing.

“This is a substantial reward that seeks to identify information that can lead to the successful prosecution of someone who was involved in the disappearance and potential murder of Carlie Sinclair,” NT Chief Minister Adam Giles said.

Mr Giles said he was not aware of the NT ever paying out reward money in relation to previous crimes.

Simon Gittany’s girlfriend Rachelle Louise sues


How sad and how desperate is this? if anyone can remember this woman… She is/was Simon Gittany’s new girlfriend up until as far as I know he was sentenced in February to a minimum of 18 years in prison for murdering his fiancee Lisa Harnum by throwing her off the balcony of a Sydney highrise.

(Remember HOW the cash came from the MEDIA and she didn’t go to court so she could have her REACTION to sentence filmed for big dollars)

Well she is now suing someone because it was suggested she was a ex stripper/dancer blah blah and was wildly delusional! (I’m sure she was not delusional)

I’m suggesting her boyfriend was the best cash cow she had ever come across with no pun intended!

Here is all the stuff we have covered so far

So she does not accidentally find this site and see dollar signs, rather than post in FULL her case SO FAR !  here is the link folks. MMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmm

http://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/action/PJUDG?jgmtid=174978

Simon Gittany’s girlfriend Rachelle Louise sues Daily Mail over claims she is an ex-stripper and ‘world’s most deluded woman’

Date
October 28, 2014 – 8:19PM
Rachelle Louise with Simon Gittany during his trial. Rachelle Louise with Simon Gittany during his trial. Photo: Janie Barrett

The girlfriend of convicted killer Simon Gittany is suing the Daily Mail for defamation over claims she is the “world’s most deluded woman” and a former stripper.

Rachelle Louise has protested Gittany’s innocence since he was sentenced in February to a minimum of 18 years in prison for murdering his fiancee Lisa Harnum by throwing her off the balcony of a Sydney highrise.

Ms Louise is suing the Daily Mail Australia over two stories published after his sentencing, which refer to her both as his “stripper girlfriend” and a “former stripper” who staged a “bizarre protest” outside Darlinghurst Court.

“A day in the life of world’s ‘most deluded’ woman,” said the second article .”Can she really believe balcony killer is innocent?”

The Daily Mail said it was “at the prison gates” when Ms Louise arrived to visit Gittany in Sydney’s Parklea Prison after he was jailed for a maximum of 26 years with a non-parole period of 18 years.

“Despite overwhelming evidence that 40-year-old Gittany had killed his fiancee, she continues to protest his innocence and has given two TV interviews in which she claimed there is no way he could have murdered Ms Harnum,” the report said.

Ms Louise, who is represented by experienced defamation barrister Roger Rasmussen, is suing the online news site for claiming that she is a stripper and a former stripper, as well as for suggesting she is the “world’s most deluded woman”.

She also says the articles suggest she is a “women [sic] of loose morals” and is deluded “because she believes convicted killer Simon Gittany is innocent”.

District Court judge Judith Gibson said the “stripper” meanings should be pleaded as alternatives rather than arguing both at the same time.

“Is being called a former stripper less defamatory than being called a stripper?” judge Gibson said in a judgment on preliminary issues.

“Should the imputation of being a former stripper be pleaded as a fall-back imputation? There is still utility in having fall-back imputations of lesser severity.”

Mr Rasmussen had argued that the articles also conveyed that Ms Louise was “stupid” because “[a]ny person who believes in the innocence of Gittany in the face of those assertions must be stupid”.

Judge Gibson said Mr Rasmussen had added in his submissions that a person can “wake up” from a delusion, while “stupid is forever”.

“Judging by Mr Rasmussen’s submissions, he considers “stupid” is a more permanent state of being “deluded”,” Judge Gibson said.

Judge Gibson said this was “contrary to the dictionary definition of ‘stupid’, which generally connotes intellectual limitations rather than being deluded on a permanent basis.”

She said the articles did “not convey an imputation that the plaintiff is stupid in the sense of having intellectual limitations”.

Judge Gibson ordered Ms Louise to pay the Daily Mail‘s costs for the preliminary hearing.

The District Court case will be heard by a jury.

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