Former state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Damien Mantach, busted embezzling $1.5 million in the election campaign funds.



money hungry 2

abc.net.au

Embezzlement allegation: The Liberal Party will have to rebuild trust

The Drum

Opinion

Fri 21 Aug 2015, 9:58am

It’s the thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members who should feel most outraged at the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of campaign funds. And the party hierarchy will have to work hard to earn their trust back, writes Terry Barnes.

The Victorian Liberal Party is in a state of deep shock after revelations its former state director, Damien Mantach, is accused of embezzling $1.5 million of party funds over a number of years.

While investigations are continuing, Victorian Liberal president, Michael Kroger, has emailed party members saying that Mantach is the only person in the frame, and all will be done to recover as much of the missing funds as possible.

It appears a breathtaking $1.5 million of party funds was diverted for personal benefit. Victorian Liberal parliamentary leader, Matthew Guy, said that what was taken was “a very significant portion of the money raised by the party in fundraising … People did a lot of work to get that. We all feel completely gutted and furious”.

There certainly will be former Victorian Liberal MPs closely defeated in last November’s state election whose anger will be, like Guy’s, white-hot, sharing his view that the missing funds could have saved their campaigns. Current marginal seat federal MPs will feel likewise. But having escaped with their parliamentary pensions or severance packages, they personally got off lightly.

What really angers and disappoints about Mantach’s alleged actions is that they were not really stealing from a mere corporate entity, the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party of Australia. Nor did they ruin the large corporate donors and high net worth individuals who donate to political parties, because that is part of what they do to build political networks, relationships and influence.

No, the grand embezzlement and the governance failures that allowed it to happen are above all an utter betrayal of, and insult to, thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members and supporters across Victoria who are not wealthy or personally powerful but are the soul of the party.

They’re the ones who turn out in all weather at election times to support MPs and candidates, door-knock, stuff letterboxes and talk up the Liberal cause to anyone who will listen.

They’re the ones who greet you at the polling booth on election days with a smile and a how-to-vote card, and look forward to bantering with voters and their counterparts from other parties.

They’re the ones who faithfully attend branch meetings, local party events, run the trivia and soup nights, and buy the tickets in the raffle that inevitably is a part of any political gathering – and donate back the prizes.

They’re the ones who drive up to hundreds of kilometres to attend party councils and pre-selection conventions.

They’re the ones who organise local electorate fundraising functions, work tirelessly to make them well-attended and successful, and cheerfully endure the proverbial rubber chicken and drinks at bar prices, because they buy their own tickets as well as sell them.

They’re the ones who pay membership subscriptions or respond to bigwigs’ circular appeals for donations. Many may not be able to afford to give much, but their trickles join to become a funding river for the party: a river, it seems, that can easily be dipped into by the unscrupulous.

And they’re the ones who are most entitled to feel gutted and angry at what has happened.

As a group, most ordinary members of the Liberal Party are older and more conservative than their MPs. They are often retired, and volunteer for party work because it gives them the satisfaction of furthering a cause, or an MP or candidate, they believe in passionately.

Others are young activists with stars in their eyes and idealism in their hearts.

Unlike the likes of Malcolm Turnbull, most Liberal rank-and-file members don’t have palatial mansions to go home to, nor much spare cash. Contrary to the Liberal silvertail image, many members and local Liberal supporters are students, pensioners or self-funded retirees on very modest incomes, and donate what they often can ill afford.

Yet they do so willingly and turn out for the party because they believe, as the Victorian Division’s website is bannered, that “The Liberal Party exists to provide high quality governments that empower people to solve the major challenges they face in their lives”.

This grassroots faith is what’s been shaken to its core by what has happened.

The Liberal organisation will recover and be reformed. As incoming Victorian president earlier this year, taking office just as Mantach left, Kroger was refreshingly open and honest with his members and the public as soon as the appalling situation was confirmed. That welcome candour is a good start to rebuilding trust in a crisis.

But just as with former Health Services Union leaders Craig Thomson, Michael Williamson and Kathy Jackson, this is yet another case of an elected or appointed official feeling somehow entitled to take advantage of the so-called “little people” who are their rank-and-file members, even though ultimately they owed everything to those they betrayed.

This week’s revelations, be they Mantach’s alleged activities or Jackson’s humiliation in court, should remind elected and appointed office holders in political parties and politically-active organisations alike that respecting the trust of their members and the public is fundamental to public life and a healthy democracy. Their position and status is a conferred privilege, not a personal fiefdom.

Fortunately, most of these office holders, across the political spectrum, work very hard to earn and retain that trust.

The Victorian Liberal Party will likely find, as the HSU has found, and indeed as federal MPs are finding with ongoing public anger over abused parliamentary “entitlements”, when the bond of trust with their ordinary members and supporters is broken, it is very, very hard to restore. But if it looks to its grass roots members, and respects and honours their values, aspirations and commitment in reforming its governance and accountability, the party will recover better and stronger for this scarifying experience.

Terry Barnes is a policy consultant, former senior Howard government adviser and member of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party. Twitter: @TerryBarnes5.


abc.net.au

Tasmanian Liberals assure members former state director repaid all money

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:23pm

The Tasmanian Liberals have assured members the party is not affected by allegations former state director Damien Mantach stole $1.5 million from the election fund of the Victorian Liberal Party.

The police fraud squad is investigating the allegations against Mr Mantach, who served as state director in both Tasmania and Victoria.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle in Victoria.

Tasmanian Liberal Party president Geoff Page used Facebook to confirmed that Mr Mantach did owe the Tasmanian branch money in 2008.

“I have today been advised that Mr Mantach had in 2008 a liability for personal expenses to the Tasmanian division totalling $47,981.78, which was fully repaid by Mr Mantach to the division upon his departure in March of that year,” he said.

Mr Page went on to assure members he was confident no other funds had gone missing.

“As the debt was settled in full the Division considered the matter closed,” he said.

“The Tasmanian division has robust internal financial processes which, in keeping with our obligations to our membership have been periodically reviewed and continually improved since 2008 and are annually audited.”


abc.net.au

Police to investigate Liberal Party $1.5m embezzlement claims

By Jean Edwards

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:27pm

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle.

An audit of the party’s finances after last year’s state election loss uncovered unauthorised financial transactions linked to Mr Mantach, with money missing from both state and federal campaign funds.

The Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad has been called in to investigate.

Liberal Party president Michael Kroger said Mr Mantach had admitted to wrongdoing.

“We feel profoundly betrayed and terribly disappointed with what’s happened,” Mr Kroger said.

Key points:

  • Liberal Party accuses former state director of embezzling $1.5m
  • Alleged theft happened over four years
  • Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad called in to investigate
  • Party believes Mantach took the money to fund his lifestyle

He said the party believed Mr Mantach had acted alone.

“We’re not aware that anyone at the party head office or any officials had any involvement at all,” he said.

It also emerged that Mr Mantach repaid tens of thousands of dollars during his time as state director of the Tasmanian branch.

In a letter to members posted on Facebook, Tasmanian Liberal president Geoff Page said in March 2008 that when he left the role, Mr Mantach fully repaid a liability of nearly $48,000 for personal expenses.

Mr Page said the division considered the matter closed and had robust internal financial processes.

Mr Kroger said he did not believe the missing money influenced the 2014 election result, or that it would affect the next federal election.

Liberal leader Matthew Guy said the party was furious at what he called a “pretty basic effort at embezzlement”.

“We want our money back,” he said.

“We want this matter sent to the police and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that justice is done.

“I saw someone making a comment that we’re white hot with anger, that’s just the start of it.”

Mr Kroger said the missing money was confined to the party’s Victorian division and he was confident some of it could be recovered through assets bought with the funds.

Mr Kroger conceded the Liberal Party had failed to properly monitor spending.

“Obviously it should have been picked up years ago — it wasn’t,” he said.

Former premier Denis Napthine, who led the party during last year’s campaign, said he was surprised and bitterly disappointed by the allegations.

The party’s administrative committee met this morning to discuss how to deal with the missing money.

Mr Mantach has been contacted for comment.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 20/08/2015

Reporter: Madeleine Morris

Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blind-sided by claims a former Director stole $1.5 million of funds with the fraud squad investigating allegations and branch members asking if other financial dealings are suspect.

Transcript

SABRA LANE, PRESENTER: Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blindsided by allegations its former director stole $1.5 million of party funds.

The party believes Damian Mantach siphoned off the money using fake invoices and Victoria police is now investigating.

Liberal politicians are furious and say the loss is a slap in the face to party members.

Late today, the Tasmanian Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses he racked up while director of that state’s party.

Madeleine Morris reports.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER: We’re white hot with anger. That’s just the start of it.

DENIS NAPTHINE, FORMER VICTORIAN PREMIER: I’m surprised, I’m shocked, I’m bitterly disappointed.

MADELEINE MORRIS, REPORTER: Sombre-faced and genuinely shocked, Victorian Liberal MPs arrived this morning to be briefed on the alleged theft of $1.5 million by one of their own.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER II: We just want to get to the truth and the bottom of the matter.

MICHAEL KROGER, LIBERAL PARTY VIC. BRANCH: Good morning, everybody. Well as you know, the Liberal Party is today referring some matters to the Victoria Police relating to the unauthorised removal of some party funds from the party head office, solely the work of one person. It should’ve been detected a long time ago. It wasn’t, which is regrettable. And the party’s obviously gonna make sure that this never happens again.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That person is Damien Mantach, the Victorian Liberal Party’s state director until March this year. The party believes that over a period of four years, Damien Mantach siphoned off money from Victorian Liberal headquarters via fake invoices for fake work.

The irregularities were uncovered when new state Liberal president Michael Kroger ordered a forensic audit of the accounts when he took over after last year’s disastrous state election.

NICK ECONOMOU, POLITICAL ANALYST: The state Liberal Party is in a bit of trouble and it’s been subject to a great deal of internal tension. There’d been problems within the parliamentary wing of the party. That contributed of course to the Liberals’ defeat at the last state election. And we also know that there were all sorts of tensions in the party organisation, the party membership.

DENIS NAPTHINE: I’m absolutely devastated, but particularly for the candidates across the state of Victoria who worked extremely hard, for the Liberal Party members and volunteers who worked extremely hard. This is a real shock to all of us.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That includes Angelo Kakouros, chair of the party’s South Barwon branch. He’s been fielding calls from party members all day.

ANGELO KAKOUROS, CHAIR, LIBERAL PARTY SOUTH BARWON BRANCH: It is a lack of trust and great, great disappointment.

MADELEINE MORRIS: But Mr Kakouros says his branch has been worried about the former state director for some time.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: I’ve had concerns with Damien Mantach for the last three to four years as a state director and personal experience and just the way things have operated and the communication between Damien, the administrative committee and some of the people within the organisation with their communication here locally in our area.

NICK ECONOMOU: It’s a very, very big task to try and keep track of what’s going on and to keep paid full-time officials answerable and accountable in what is essentially a voluntary organisation. The state treasurer of the Liberal Party would be a volunteer after all. Now, on top of this we’re getting increasing regulation to try and regulate the flow of donations. … But I suspect that that may be encouraging clever people to be a bit tricky here and try and find ways to squirrel resources away.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, Michael Kroger admitted there was a systemic problem with the Liberal Party accounting and changes were being made.

MICHAEL KROGER: More people in the accounting section and different oversights in relation to levels of authorised expenditure and a greater role for the party finance committee and more attention on these matters by the party executive.

MADELEINE MORRIS: It’s not the first time Damien Mantach has been in the headlines. Two years ago, he was investigated and ultimately cleared over payments he authorised to a former Liberal staffer who quit after being implicated in a scandal that snared the Police Minister.

And late today, the Tasmanian branch of the Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay nearly $48,000 in personal expenses when he was Tasmanian branch state director.

The fallout today extended all the way from Spring Street to Canberra.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, FEDERAL LABOR MP: In 2013 the Prime Minister said, and I quote, “I know Damien Mantach well. He’s a person of integrity. So let’s see where this investigation goes. He has my confidence.” Does the Prime Minister agree that this ringing endorsement is yet another failure of judgment on his part?

TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: But I can inform the House that matters concerning the individual in question have this morning been referred to the Victorian Police.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, no answer at the Mantach family home and Damien Mantach couldn’t be reached on the phone.

There is palpable shock here in Victoria that this could’ve happened to the party which prides itself on good financial management, particularly amongst Liberal rank and file. One branch chair told me it was like finding out the priest had been stealing from the collection plate. But there’s also relief it’s been uncovered by the party’s new state leadership.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: Michael Kroger, the state president, he’s doing a fantastic job in order to bring honesty and transparency back into the party.

MADELEINE MORRIS: The impact for the party may yet be felt in the place it will hurt most: the coffers.

NICK ECONOMOU: The Liberal Party really does rely heavily on membership fees and donations, so I think something that might damage the reputation of the party’s fundraising ability could be really seriously damaging to the Liberal Party.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER III: I think this is simply a matter of we’ve been robbed. We want our money back and we want justice done. Police will investigate and i think that’s all I should say at this point in time.

SABRA LANE: Madeleine Morris reporting.


Rachael Brown reported this story on Thursday, August 20, 2015 12:20:47

 abc.net.au

 Fmr Vic Liberal state director accused of stealing $1.5m from party over four years
 TRANSCIPT

ELEANOR HALL: Let’s go now to Victoria where that state’s branch of the Liberal Party is having some trouble of its own.

The Liberal leader Matthew Guy has accused the former state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Damien Mantach, of embezzling $1.5 million in the election campaign funds.

Mr Guy says his party is “white hot” with anger, and that the funds could’ve made a difference in last year’s election.

In Melbourne, Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal Party says discrepancies were uncovered during a forensic audit of the party’s funds after last year’s state election loss.

The party’s former state director Damien Mantach is being accused of stealing $1.5 million over four years, but the audit continues.

Mr Mantach has not responded to the ABC’s calls.

Liberal party members were called into a crisis meeting this morning, and heading in, the party leader Matthew Guy made no attempt to mask his feelings.

MATTHEW GUY: We are furious; we want our money back.

RACHAEL BROWN: The matter has been referred to the Victoria Police Fraud and Extortion Squad, which says it’s investigating the disappearance of funds, but can’t comment further.

Mr Guy says, if the allegations prove true, it’s a massive betrayal of trust.

MATTHEW GUY: An enormous part of our election war chest, enormous. People did a lot of work to get that. I mean, we have a fundraising team who’ve done a huge amount of work; they’re always under a lot of scrutiny as you can imagine, and a lot of pressure.

But they’ve done a huge amount of work. We’ve got a lot of supporters, a lot of branch people who have worked their guts out for this party. And for what it appears to be one individual to do this to us leaves us bitterly cold.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal party leader says the funds could’ve changed last year’s election result, which saw Labor’s Daniel Andrews dismissing the Napthine Coalition government.

Denis Napthine, who led the Victoria’s first one-term government in 60 years, says the fraud allegation is shocking and bitterly disappointing.

The party’s new president, Michael Kroger, has released a statement saying, when the audit turned up suspicious transactions amounting to $1.5 million between 2010 and 2014, Damien Mantach was asked to explain himself.

It was after this discussion that the party’s administrative committee voted to refer the matter to police.

Mr Kroger admits there’s a weakness with the Liberal Party’s checks and balances.

MICHAEL KROGER: Yeah, well on this occasion they clearly failed. So yep, quite up front about that. I’ve only been in the job four months, as you know. This has been going on for four years, so you know, it should have been picked up before and wasn’t, unfortunately.

RACHAEL BROWN: But he says there won’t be a clean out of branch holders, that the alleged fraud didn’t extend to other employees, officials or office bearers, and was limited to the party’s Melbourne headquarters.

He says civil action hasn’t been decided on.

MICHAEL KROGER: We’re sensitive to a number of issues, including the fact the person involved has a wife and family, and there are other matters which we want to take into account. But yes, we’ll be recovering a good deal of the funds in a cooperative relationship with the person involved.

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Kroger says he doesn’t know where the money’s gone.

And he’s hit back at a suggestion that this is in a similar vein to the trade union boss Kathy Jackson being forced to repay $1.4 million of misappropriated members’ funds.

MICHAEL KROGER: When the Liberal party becomes aware of a serious matter like this, what do we do?

We investigate it quickly, we report it to the appropriate authorities, who in this case will be the Victoria Police. We don’t hide it; we don’t ignore it; we deal with it.

On the other hand, it’s taken a royal commission at massive public expense bringing these union and Labor leaders kicking and screaming before the public to get any type of information from them at all, at massive public expense. And even now they want to sack the umpire.

RACHAEL BROWN: One commentator has told The World Today that there might be more to this than meets the eye.

Damian Mantach stepped down from the director’s job in March. A couple of years ago he was one of the senior Liberals secretly recorded during the police command crisis that led to Ted Baillieu resigning as premier.

The commentator says this audit and slur on a former power player in the executive committee might have more to do with the ongoing power struggle and factional rifts at the upper levels of the Victorian Liberal party.

ELEANOR HALL: Rachael Brown with that report.


Damien Mantach embezzlement -Finger pointing begins over Liberals’ stolen cash


The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

Embezzlement allegation: The Liberal Party will have to rebuild trust

The Drum

Opinion

Fri 21 Aug 2015, 9:58am

It’s the thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members who should feel most outraged at the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of campaign funds. And the party hierarchy will have to work hard to earn their trust back, writes Terry Barnes.

The Victorian Liberal Party is in a state of deep shock after revelations its former state director, Damien Mantach, is accused of embezzling $1.5 million of party funds over a number of years.

While investigations are continuing, Victorian Liberal president, Michael Kroger, has emailed party members saying that Mantach is the only person in the frame, and all will be done to recover as much of the missing funds as possible.

It appears a breathtaking $1.5 million of party funds was diverted for personal benefit. Victorian Liberal parliamentary leader, Matthew Guy, said that what was taken was “a very significant portion of the money raised by the party in fundraising … People did a lot of work to get that. We all feel completely gutted and furious”.

There certainly will be former Victorian Liberal MPs closely defeated in last November’s state election whose anger will be, like Guy’s, white-hot, sharing his view that the missing funds could have saved their campaigns. Current marginal seat federal MPs will feel likewise. But having escaped with their parliamentary pensions or severance packages, they personally got off lightly.

What really angers and disappoints about Mantach’s alleged actions is that they were not really stealing from a mere corporate entity, the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party of Australia. Nor did they ruin the large corporate donors and high net worth individuals who donate to political parties, because that is part of what they do to build political networks, relationships and influence.

No, the grand embezzlement and the governance failures that allowed it to happen are above all an utter betrayal of, and insult to, thousands of ordinary Liberal Party members and supporters across Victoria who are not wealthy or personally powerful but are the soul of the party.

They’re the ones who turn out in all weather at election times to support MPs and candidates, door-knock, stuff letterboxes and talk up the Liberal cause to anyone who will listen.

They’re the ones who greet you at the polling booth on election days with a smile and a how-to-vote card, and look forward to bantering with voters and their counterparts from other parties.

They’re the ones who faithfully attend branch meetings, local party events, run the trivia and soup nights, and buy the tickets in the raffle that inevitably is a part of any political gathering – and donate back the prizes.

They’re the ones who drive up to hundreds of kilometres to attend party councils and pre-selection conventions.

They’re the ones who organise local electorate fundraising functions, work tirelessly to make them well-attended and successful, and cheerfully endure the proverbial rubber chicken and drinks at bar prices, because they buy their own tickets as well as sell them.

They’re the ones who pay membership subscriptions or respond to bigwigs’ circular appeals for donations. Many may not be able to afford to give much, but their trickles join to become a funding river for the party: a river, it seems, that can easily be dipped into by the unscrupulous.

And they’re the ones who are most entitled to feel gutted and angry at what has happened.

As a group, most ordinary members of the Liberal Party are older and more conservative than their MPs. They are often retired, and volunteer for party work because it gives them the satisfaction of furthering a cause, or an MP or candidate, they believe in passionately.

Others are young activists with stars in their eyes and idealism in their hearts.

Unlike the likes of Malcolm Turnbull, most Liberal rank-and-file members don’t have palatial mansions to go home to, nor much spare cash. Contrary to the Liberal silvertail image, many members and local Liberal supporters are students, pensioners or self-funded retirees on very modest incomes, and donate what they often can ill afford.

Yet they do so willingly and turn out for the party because they believe, as the Victorian Division’s website is bannered, that “The Liberal Party exists to provide high quality governments that empower people to solve the major challenges they face in their lives”.

This grassroots faith is what’s been shaken to its core by what has happened.

The Liberal organisation will recover and be reformed. As incoming Victorian president earlier this year, taking office just as Mantach left, Kroger was refreshingly open and honest with his members and the public as soon as the appalling situation was confirmed. That welcome candour is a good start to rebuilding trust in a crisis.

But just as with former Health Services Union leaders Craig Thomson, Michael Williamson and Kathy Jackson, this is yet another case of an elected or appointed official feeling somehow entitled to take advantage of the so-called “little people” who are their rank-and-file members, even though ultimately they owed everything to those they betrayed.

This week’s revelations, be they Mantach’s alleged activities or Jackson’s humiliation in court, should remind elected and appointed office holders in political parties and politically-active organisations alike that respecting the trust of their members and the public is fundamental to public life and a healthy democracy. Their position and status is a conferred privilege, not a personal fiefdom.

Fortunately, most of these office holders, across the political spectrum, work very hard to earn and retain that trust.

The Victorian Liberal Party will likely find, as the HSU has found, and indeed as federal MPs are finding with ongoing public anger over abused parliamentary “entitlements”, when the bond of trust with their ordinary members and supporters is broken, it is very, very hard to restore. But if it looks to its grass roots members, and respects and honours their values, aspirations and commitment in reforming its governance and accountability, the party will recover better and stronger for this scarifying experience.

Terry Barnes is a policy consultant, former senior Howard government adviser and member of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party. Twitter: @TerryBarnes5.

Click image below to enlarge

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.


abc.net.au

Tasmanian Liberals assure members former state director repaid all money

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:23pm

The Tasmanian Liberals have assured members the party is not affected by allegations former state director Damien Mantach stole $1.5 million from the election fund of the Victorian Liberal Party.

The police fraud squad is investigating the allegations against Mr Mantach, who served as state director in both Tasmania and Victoria.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle in Victoria.

Tasmanian Liberal Party president Geoff Page used Facebook to confirmed that Mr Mantach did owe the Tasmanian branch money in 2008.

“I have today been advised that Mr Mantach had in 2008 a liability for personal expenses to the Tasmanian division totalling $47,981.78, which was fully repaid by Mr Mantach to the division upon his departure in March of that year,” he said.

Mr Page went on to assure members he was confident no other funds had gone missing.

“As the debt was settled in full the Division considered the matter closed,” he said.

“The Tasmanian division has robust internal financial processes which, in keeping with our obligations to our membership have been periodically reviewed and continually improved since 2008 and are annually audited.”


abc.net.au

Police to investigate Liberal Party $1.5m embezzlement claims

By Jean Edwards

Thu 20 Aug 2015, 7:27pm

The police fraud squad is investigating allegations former Victorian Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach embezzled around $1.5 million of election campaign funds.

The money is alleged to have vanished over four years to fund Mr Mantach’s lifestyle.

An audit of the party’s finances after last year’s state election loss uncovered unauthorised financial transactions linked to Mr Mantach, with money missing from both state and federal campaign funds.

The Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad has been called in to investigate.

Liberal Party president Michael Kroger said Mr Mantach had admitted to wrongdoing.

“We feel profoundly betrayed and terribly disappointed with what’s happened,” Mr Kroger said.

Key points:

  • Liberal Party accuses former state director of embezzling $1.5m
  • Alleged theft happened over four years
  • Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad called in to investigate
  • Party believes Mantach took the money to fund his lifestyle

He said the party believed Mr Mantach had acted alone.

“We’re not aware that anyone at the party head office or any officials had any involvement at all,” he said.

It also emerged that Mr Mantach repaid tens of thousands of dollars during his time as state director of the Tasmanian branch.

In a letter to members posted on Facebook, Tasmanian Liberal president Geoff Page said in March 2008 that when he left the role, Mr Mantach fully repaid a liability of nearly $48,000 for personal expenses.

Mr Page said the division considered the matter closed and had robust internal financial processes.

Mr Kroger said he did not believe the missing money influenced the 2014 election result, or that it would affect the next federal election.

Liberal leader Matthew Guy said the party was furious at what he called a “pretty basic effort at embezzlement”.

“We want our money back,” he said.

“We want this matter sent to the police and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that justice is done.

“I saw someone making a comment that we’re white hot with anger, that’s just the start of it.”

Mr Kroger said the missing money was confined to the party’s Victorian division and he was confident some of it could be recovered through assets bought with the funds.

Mr Kroger conceded the Liberal Party had failed to properly monitor spending.

“Obviously it should have been picked up years ago — it wasn’t,” he said.

Former premier Denis Napthine, who led the party during last year’s campaign, said he was surprised and bitterly disappointed by the allegations.

The party’s administrative committee met this morning to discuss how to deal with the missing money.

Mr Mantach has been contacted for comment.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 20/08/2015

Reporter: Madeleine Morris

Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blind-sided by claims a former Director stole $1.5 million of funds with the fraud squad investigating allegations and branch members asking if other financial dealings are suspect.

Transcript

SABRA LANE, PRESENTER: Victoria’s Liberal Party has been blindsided by allegations its former director stole $1.5 million of party funds.

The party believes Damian Mantach siphoned off the money using fake invoices and Victoria police is now investigating.

Liberal politicians are furious and say the loss is a slap in the face to party members.

Late today, the Tasmanian Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenses he racked up while director of that state’s party.

Madeleine Morris reports.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER: We’re white hot with anger. That’s just the start of it.

DENIS NAPTHINE, FORMER VICTORIAN PREMIER: I’m surprised, I’m shocked, I’m bitterly disappointed.

MADELEINE MORRIS, REPORTER: Sombre-faced and genuinely shocked, Victorian Liberal MPs arrived this morning to be briefed on the alleged theft of $1.5 million by one of their own.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER II: We just want to get to the truth and the bottom of the matter.

MICHAEL KROGER, LIBERAL PARTY VIC. BRANCH: Good morning, everybody. Well as you know, the Liberal Party is today referring some matters to the Victoria Police relating to the unauthorised removal of some party funds from the party head office, solely the work of one person. It should’ve been detected a long time ago. It wasn’t, which is regrettable. And the party’s obviously gonna make sure that this never happens again.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That person is Damien Mantach, the Victorian Liberal Party’s state director until March this year. The party believes that over a period of four years, Damien Mantach siphoned off money from Victorian Liberal headquarters via fake invoices for fake work.

The irregularities were uncovered when new state Liberal president Michael Kroger ordered a forensic audit of the accounts when he took over after last year’s disastrous state election.

NICK ECONOMOU, POLITICAL ANALYST: The state Liberal Party is in a bit of trouble and it’s been subject to a great deal of internal tension. There’d been problems within the parliamentary wing of the party. That contributed of course to the Liberals’ defeat at the last state election. And we also know that there were all sorts of tensions in the party organisation, the party membership.

DENIS NAPTHINE: I’m absolutely devastated, but particularly for the candidates across the state of Victoria who worked extremely hard, for the Liberal Party members and volunteers who worked extremely hard. This is a real shock to all of us.

MADELEINE MORRIS: That includes Angelo Kakouros, chair of the party’s South Barwon branch. He’s been fielding calls from party members all day.

ANGELO KAKOUROS, CHAIR, LIBERAL PARTY SOUTH BARWON BRANCH: It is a lack of trust and great, great disappointment.

MADELEINE MORRIS: But Mr Kakouros says his branch has been worried about the former state director for some time.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: I’ve had concerns with Damien Mantach for the last three to four years as a state director and personal experience and just the way things have operated and the communication between Damien, the administrative committee and some of the people within the organisation with their communication here locally in our area.

NICK ECONOMOU: It’s a very, very big task to try and keep track of what’s going on and to keep paid full-time officials answerable and accountable in what is essentially a voluntary organisation. The state treasurer of the Liberal Party would be a volunteer after all. Now, on top of this we’re getting increasing regulation to try and regulate the flow of donations. … But I suspect that that may be encouraging clever people to be a bit tricky here and try and find ways to squirrel resources away.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, Michael Kroger admitted there was a systemic problem with the Liberal Party accounting and changes were being made.

MICHAEL KROGER: More people in the accounting section and different oversights in relation to levels of authorised expenditure and a greater role for the party finance committee and more attention on these matters by the party executive.

MADELEINE MORRIS: It’s not the first time Damien Mantach has been in the headlines. Two years ago, he was investigated and ultimately cleared over payments he authorised to a former Liberal staffer who quit after being implicated in a scandal that snared the Police Minister.

And late today, the Tasmanian branch of the Liberal Party confirmed Mr Mantach had to repay nearly $48,000 in personal expenses when he was Tasmanian branch state director.

The fallout today extended all the way from Spring Street to Canberra.

BRENDAN O’CONNOR, FEDERAL LABOR MP: In 2013 the Prime Minister said, and I quote, “I know Damien Mantach well. He’s a person of integrity. So let’s see where this investigation goes. He has my confidence.” Does the Prime Minister agree that this ringing endorsement is yet another failure of judgment on his part?

TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: But I can inform the House that matters concerning the individual in question have this morning been referred to the Victorian Police.

MADELEINE MORRIS: Today, no answer at the Mantach family home and Damien Mantach couldn’t be reached on the phone.

There is palpable shock here in Victoria that this could’ve happened to the party which prides itself on good financial management, particularly amongst Liberal rank and file. One branch chair told me it was like finding out the priest had been stealing from the collection plate. But there’s also relief it’s been uncovered by the party’s new state leadership.

ANGELO KAKOUROS: Michael Kroger, the state president, he’s doing a fantastic job in order to bring honesty and transparency back into the party.

MADELEINE MORRIS: The impact for the party may yet be felt in the place it will hurt most: the coffers.

NICK ECONOMOU: The Liberal Party really does rely heavily on membership fees and donations, so I think something that might damage the reputation of the party’s fundraising ability could be really seriously damaging to the Liberal Party.

LIBERAL PARTY MEMBER III: I think this is simply a matter of we’ve been robbed. We want our money back and we want justice done. Police will investigate and i think that’s all I should say at this point in time.

SABRA LANE: Madeleine Morris reporting.


Rachael Brown reported this story on Thursday, August 20, 2015 12:20:47

 abc.net.au

 Fmr Vic Liberal state director accused of stealing $1.5m from party over four years
 TRANSCIPT

ELEANOR HALL: Let’s go now to Victoria where that state’s branch of the Liberal Party is having some trouble of its own.

The Liberal leader Matthew Guy has accused the former state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Damien Mantach, of embezzling $1.5 million in the election campaign funds.

Mr Guy says his party is “white hot” with anger, and that the funds could’ve made a difference in last year’s election.

In Melbourne, Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal Party says discrepancies were uncovered during a forensic audit of the party’s funds after last year’s state election loss.

The party’s former state director Damien Mantach is being accused of stealing $1.5 million over four years, but the audit continues.

Mr Mantach has not responded to the ABC’s calls.

Liberal party members were called into a crisis meeting this morning, and heading in, the party leader Matthew Guy made no attempt to mask his feelings.

MATTHEW GUY: We are furious; we want our money back.

RACHAEL BROWN: The matter has been referred to the Victoria Police Fraud and Extortion Squad, which says it’s investigating the disappearance of funds, but can’t comment further.

Mr Guy says, if the allegations prove true, it’s a massive betrayal of trust.

MATTHEW GUY: An enormous part of our election war chest, enormous. People did a lot of work to get that. I mean, we have a fundraising team who’ve done a huge amount of work; they’re always under a lot of scrutiny as you can imagine, and a lot of pressure.

But they’ve done a huge amount of work. We’ve got a lot of supporters, a lot of branch people who have worked their guts out for this party. And for what it appears to be one individual to do this to us leaves us bitterly cold.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Liberal party leader says the funds could’ve changed last year’s election result, which saw Labor’s Daniel Andrews dismissing the Napthine Coalition government.

Denis Napthine, who led the Victoria’s first one-term government in 60 years, says the fraud allegation is shocking and bitterly disappointing.

The party’s new president, Michael Kroger, has released a statement saying, when the audit turned up suspicious transactions amounting to $1.5 million between 2010 and 2014, Damien Mantach was asked to explain himself.

It was after this discussion that the party’s administrative committee voted to refer the matter to police.

Mr Kroger admits there’s a weakness with the Liberal Party’s checks and balances.

MICHAEL KROGER: Yeah, well on this occasion they clearly failed. So yep, quite up front about that. I’ve only been in the job four months, as you know. This has been going on for four years, so you know, it should have been picked up before and wasn’t, unfortunately.

RACHAEL BROWN: But he says there won’t be a clean out of branch holders, that the alleged fraud didn’t extend to other employees, officials or office bearers, and was limited to the party’s Melbourne headquarters.

He says civil action hasn’t been decided on.

MICHAEL KROGER: We’re sensitive to a number of issues, including the fact the person involved has a wife and family, and there are other matters which we want to take into account. But yes, we’ll be recovering a good deal of the funds in a cooperative relationship with the person involved.

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Kroger says he doesn’t know where the money’s gone.

And he’s hit back at a suggestion that this is in a similar vein to the trade union boss Kathy Jackson being forced to repay $1.4 million of misappropriated members’ funds.

MICHAEL KROGER: When the Liberal party becomes aware of a serious matter like this, what do we do?

We investigate it quickly, we report it to the appropriate authorities, who in this case will be the Victoria Police. We don’t hide it; we don’t ignore it; we deal with it.

On the other hand, it’s taken a royal commission at massive public expense bringing these union and Labor leaders kicking and screaming before the public to get any type of information from them at all, at massive public expense. And even now they want to sack the umpire.

RACHAEL BROWN: One commentator has told The World Today that there might be more to this than meets the eye.

Damian Mantach stepped down from the director’s job in March. A couple of years ago he was one of the senior Liberals secretly recorded during the police command crisis that led to Ted Baillieu resigning as premier.

The commentator says this audit and slur on a former power player in the executive committee might have more to do with the ongoing power struggle and factional rifts at the upper levels of the Victorian Liberal party.

ELEANOR HALL: Rachael Brown with that report.



news.com.au

Finger pointing begins over Liberals’ stolen cash

http://www.news.com.au/video/id-NwMjY0dzqkwzxK6FCG9JiP2ATp0m5WyG/Police-to-investigate-alleged-Vic-Lib-fraud

Vic detectives will investigate the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of Liberal party funds.

Victorian detectives will investigate the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of Liberal

Victorian detectives will investigate the alleged embezzlement of $1.5 million of Liberal party funds by former state director Damien Mantach. Source: AAP

VICTORIA’S Liberal Party didn’t lose the 2014 election because its then state director stole $1.5 million from campaign funds, current state president Michael Kroger says.

Former Victorian Liberal director Damien Mantach has admitted to stealing money from the party over a four-year period going into the state election.

On a bad day for Mr Mantach, his Liberal Party email address was also found in the leaked Ashley Madison database, although there is no evidence he specifically signed up to the site.

Mr Mantach, who was on a $200,000-a-year salary, allegedly used the money to pay his mortgage, fund his lifestyle and build a half-a-million dollar share portfolio, the Herald Sun reports.

When asked about the alleged theft, his wife Jodie Mantach told the paper she no longer wants “anything to do with him”.

Mr Kroger said the party did not lose the election because of a lack of funds.

“The ability of the party to continue to operate and fund its campaigns has not been compromised,” a party statement said.

Mr Kroger said the party was strengthening its financial controls after the details of the theft became clear.

The $1.5 million theft has been referred to Victoria Police and Mr Kroger is hopeful some of it can be recovered.

The Ocean Grove home owned by former Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach.

The Ocean Grove home owned by former Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach. Source: News Corp Australia

The Liberals’ Tasmanian division president Geoff Page later confirmed Mr Mantach’s history of questionable spending dating back to 2008.

Mr Mantach repaid almost $50,000 in “personal expenses” before leaving his position with the Tasmanian branch to move to Victoria. “Mr Mantach had in 2008 a liability for personal expenses to the Tasmanian division totalling $47,981.78, which was fully repaid by Mr Mantach to the division upon his departure in March of that year,” Mr Page said in a post on the Tasmanian Liberals’ Facebook page.

Finger pointing has begun within the party, with the Liberals’ federal director — and husband of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief-of-staff, Peta Credlin — Brian Loughnane reportedly being blamed for his appointment.

A RORTER’S DREAM JOB

As state director of the Victorian Liberal Party, Mr Mantach’s role was a rorter’s dream.

He had the final say on budget line items, such as polling research, that the party treasurer was not allowed to see. It allowed him to bill the party with invoices — some created on his work computer — for jobs that did not exist.

Mr Mantach resigned after the 2014 state election loss but had to face the music on Monday when the party’s lawyers called him to a meeting.

His lawyer arrived on Tuesday in an attempt to cut a deal when the party thought he had stolen around $800,000.

The Liberals wanted complete disclosure and Mr Mantach allegedly spent hours with officials on Wednesday explaining the full extent of his theft.

“We feel profoundly betrayed and terribly disappointed with what’s happened,” Mr Kroger told reporters on Thursday.

“It appears it was only Damien involved. If the police find others, fine, but we’re not aware that anyone at the party head office or any officials had any involvement at all.” Victorian Liberal leader Matthew Guy said members were “gutted” after raising funds for the state and federal election campaigns. “The party is furious, we want our money back, we want this matter sent to the police, and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that justice is done,” he said.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission was called on to examine secret phone recordings of senior Liberal figures in 2013, including Mr Mantach, though it was found an investigation was not warranted.

“I know Damien Mantach well. He is a person of integrity. So let’s see where this investigation goes. He has my confidence,” Tony Abbott said at the time when he was opposition leader.

Asked about the $1.5 million theft on Thursday, Prime Minister Abbott said it was a matter for the Victorian division of the party.

Mr Mantach did not respond to attempts to contact him on yesterday.

Victoria Police have launched an investigation.

The Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin and husband Brian Loughnane. The Liberal

The Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin and husband Brian Loughnane. The Liberal Party’s federal director is being blamed for appointing Mr Mentach. Source: News Corp Australia


Maggie Kirkpatrick, The FREAK from Prisoner, appeals against conviction on child sex offences

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A joke of a sentence for the freak, with all respect, had been married but known to be gay. Seeking to feed inner fantasy’s back in the day maybe? Either way took advantage of a young vulnerable girl

Maggie Kirkpatrick, Prisoner star, appeals against conviction on child sex offences

21/08/15

Australian actor Maggie Kirkpatrick, who starred as “The Freak” in the hit television show Prisoner, has filed an appeal over her conviction on child sex offences committed 31 years ago.

Maggie Kirkpatrick, Prisoner star, found guilty of child sex offences

Maggie Kirkpatrick, Prisoner star, found guilty of child sex offences

Kirkpatrick, 74, was found guilty of two charges of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency with a 14-year-old girl at Kirkpatrick’s Prahran home in 1984, after picking up the teenager from a psychiatric hospital.

Her lawyer said Kirkpatrick maintains her innocence.

The case is set to return to court on September 11.

Kirkpatrick was earlier given an 18-month community corrections order, meaning she would serve her sentence in the community, not prison.

The actor would also be required to complete 100 hours of community service and would be placed on the sex offenders’ register for eight years.

In sentencing, magistrate Peter Mealy said Kirkpatrick had shown no remorse for her actions.

“The victim here was a vulnerable 14-year-old child. The defendant would have known her to be especially vulnerable in view of her being an inpatient at a psychiatric [hospital],” he said.

“The defendant has had the opportunity of watching the unedifying spectacle of the [victim] recounting the offending and being subjected to extensive and vigorous cross examination.

“All along to this point the defendant showed no remorse instead simply protesting at a distance to, in her terms, the untrue and malicious allegations.”

The court was earlier told the victim had not reported the abuse until 2013 because she thought everyone would think she was crazy.

The court heard the teenager had organised a meeting with the actor through a person she met while admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Kew, in Melbourne’s inner east.

Kirkpatrick collected the girl from the hospital and then the pair went back to the actor’s home and shared a meal.

The court heard the pair then ended up in Kirkpatrick’s bedroom, where the abuse took place, before the girl was taken back to the hospital.

In a recorded police interview shown in court, Kirkpatrick maintained she had taken the girl home for dinner but did not abuse her.

She said she was giving the teenager “a day out” in an act of “kindness”.


Maggie Kirkpatrick, Prisoner star, found guilty of child sex offences

Updated yesterday at 8:06pm

Australian actor Maggie Kirkpatrick, who starred as “The Freak” in the hit television show Prisoner, has been found guilty of child sex offences committed 31 years ago.

Kirkpatrick, 74, had denied the two charges of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency with a person under 16.

The court was told on Wednesday that the victim, who cannot be named, was abused at Kirkpatrick’s Prahran home in 1984.

Kirkpatrick was well known for her role as a prison warden in the popular 1980s television series Prisoner.

Today, Magistrate Peter Mealy found her accuser was “a witness of truth”.

Kirkpatrick’s bail was extended and will now be assessed for a Community Corrections Order, meaning she is unlikely to be given a prison term.

She will be sentenced on Friday.

The court had earlier been told the victim had not reported the abuse until 2013 because she thought everyone would think she was crazy.

It was told the teenager had organised a meeting with the actor in 1984 through a person she met while admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Kew, in Melbourne’s inner east.

Kirkpatrick collected the girl from the hospital and then the pair went back to the actor’s home and shared a meal.

The pair then ended up in Kirkpatrick’s bedroom, where the alleged abuse took place, before the girl was taken back to the hospital.

Kirkpatrick told police charges were ‘false and malicious’

In a recorded police interview shown in court, Kirkpatrick said she had taken the girl home for dinner but did not abuse her.

She said she was giving the teenager “a day out” in an act of “kindness”.

She told police she had sent the girl away in a taxi after she caught her raiding her alcohol cabinet and “felt I should put a stop to it”.

Later in the interview said she “did not have anything to say other than they’re false and malicious in my mind”.

“These [accusations] are making me feel quite ill,” she told police.

A high school friend of the victim told the hearing that the girl was a “big fan” of the TV show at the time.

The husband of the victim said his wife had raised the abuse after she became uncomfortable during an “intimate” conversation.

“She told me that she’d been invited to a person’s place or a lady’s place and that person was the nasty one on Prisoner … she just said that … some sexual things happened but she didn’t elaborate,” he said.


Maggie Kirkpatrick: Alleged child sexual abuse victim of TV star had ‘Prisoner obsession’

Updated Wed at 5:20pm

The woman who has accused a star of the hit Australian television drama Prisoner of abusing her as a child was a “big fan” of the show, a Melbourne court has heard.

Maggie Kirkpatrick, 74, has denied two charges of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency with a person under 16.

She was well-known for her role as a prison warden nicknamed “The Freak” in the popular 1980s television series.

Detective Senior Constable Katherine Mitchell told the court the alleged victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police she had been abused by Kirkpatrick at the actor’s Prahran home when she was 14.

It allegedly took place in 1984.

In a statement read to the court, the alleged victim said she had not reported the abuse until two years ago because everyone would think she was crazy.

It said the victim had organised meeting the actor through a person she met while she had been admitted to the Newhaven psychiatric hospital in Kew.

It was alleged that Kirkpatrick collected the victim from the hospital and took her back to Kirkpatrick’s home, where they shared a meal.

She said the pair then ended up in Kirkpatrick’s bedroom, where the alleged abuse took place.

The victim said she was then given a yellow coloured jumper and a signed photograph and driven back to the hospital.

You have astonished me with those allegations… it’s beyond comprehension.

She also told police she recalled Kirkpatrick being most disappointed as she was not sexually experienced.

The court was shown Kirkpatrick’s videotaped police interview, in which she admitted taking the teenager back to her home for dinner but denied abusing her.

The actor said she sent the girl away in a taxi after she caught her raiding her alcohol cabinet.

“It was a kindness to give her a day out,” Kirkpatrick said during the interview.

“I then became a tad uncomfortable as while I was cooking and having a glass of wine, she decided to get into the alcohol in the dining room… I felt I should put a stop to it.”

Kirkpatrick initially waived her right not to answer any questions but later said she “did not have anything to say other than they’re false and malicious in my mind”.

“These [accusations] are making me feel quite ill,” she said.

“You have astonished me with those allegations… it’s beyond comprehension.”

Victim told husband of alleged abuse years later

A witness told the hearing that the alleged victim was a “big fan” of the TV show when she was a teenager.

The witness said she became high school friends with the alleged victim and remembered visiting her when she was in hospital.

She recalled the alleged victim telling her she had met Kirkpatrick.

“By my memory it was when she was at Newhaven and I don’t recall any of the particulars, just her making reference to it and her being very excited,” the witness said.

“The only thing I recall was an invitation [for her] to go somewhere … with Maggie.

“I remember that she was a big fan of the show and watched it religiously and would often refer to what she’d seen in the show, different episodes.”

The witness agreed with defence suggestions describing the alleged victim as having a “Prisoner obsession” and being a “Prisoner freak”.

The husband of the alleged victim told the court that his wife became uncomfortable during an “intimate” conversation they had in the mid 2000s.

“She told me that she’d been invited to a person’s place or a lady’s place and that person was the nasty one on Prisoner … she just said that … some sexual things happened but she didn’t elaborate,” he said.

Kirkpatrick did not comment to reporters outside court.

The hearing before Magistrate Peter Mealy is continuing.


 

Madafferi’s son facing theft and weapons charges


Giovanni "Johnny" Madafferi.Giovanni “Johnny” Madafferi. Photo: MySpace

The son of prominent Mafia figure and convicted drug trafficker Francesco Madafferi has been charged with serious weapons and theft offences.

Giovanni “Johnny” Madafferi, 24, was arrested on June 4, after police officers conducted a random breath test in Broadmeadows and discovered he was driving a stolen hire car.

A search of the black Toyota Corolla uncovered a gun and knife.

Johnny Madafferi.
Johnny Madafferi.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed Mr Madafferi has been charged with theft of a motor vehicle, possessing a firearm and a prohibited weapon (knife), and receiving stolen goods. He will appear before the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court on August 12.

Mr Madafferi is one of  the four children of Francesco “Frank” Madafferi, 54, who was granted an Australian visa by former Liberal immigration minister Amanda Vanstone in 2005 after intense lobbying and political donations, revealed by a recent Fairfax Media/Four Corners investigation.

The reversal of a previous order to deport Madafferi to Italy – where he has convictions for extortion, drugs and weapons offences – is believed to have been made because it would have unfairly affected his wife and children.

But within two years of the reprieve, Madafferi was charged over his role in the importation of 15 million ecstasy tablets, and received a 10-year prison sentence.

Johnny Madafferi’s arrest  by the Hume Crime Investigation Unit follows a Fairfax Media report that revealed police are discovering guns in cars every two days in Melbourne’s north-west.

The region, which includes Broadmeadows, Sunshine and Werribee, also recorded a firearms offence such as a drive-by shooting every six days, amid concerns of a growing “gangster culture” among young men in the area.

Crime Statistics Agency figures released last month revealed an almost threefold increase in firearms offences in the north-west region during the past five years, from 581 in the year to March 2011, to 1332 in the 12 months to April 2015.

Victorian Police Minister Wade Noonan has announced a tightening of gun-trafficking legislation and a widening of police powers in response to the rise in weapons seizures and shootings. 

The mafia, metadata and me: the day Stan called me into an ecstasy sting


The mafia, metadata and me: the day Stan called me into an ecstasy sting

Nick McKenzie

Mafia in Australia – Drugs, Murder and Politics

The mafia continues to flourish in Australia despite major police operations, as this joint Four Corners/Fairfax Media investigation reveals.

When the phone vibrated in my pocket in September 2007, I had no idea the incoming call would plunge me into the middle of Australia’s biggest Mafia investigation in decades.

I was also unaware that the caller, who identified himself as “Stan”, was, in fact, a driven and entrepreneurial drug trafficker from Griffith, NSW, called Pat Barbaro.

Federal Police and Customs agents with some of the Ecstasy and Cocaine after the drug bust.Federal Police and Customs agents with some of the Ecstasy and Cocaine after the drug bust. Photo: John Woudstra

Barbaro had organised the world’s biggest ecstasy shipment into Melbourne in June 2007. But by the time he rang me, three months later, he was unable to locate the shipping container packed with his $500 million load.

Calling me, and then sending a series of texts from several mobile phones registered in fake names, was part of a desperate plan by Barbaro to either locate his shipment or confirm his suspicions that the police had seized his drugs.

He was hoping I would reach out to police or waterfront sources to do this, and then report my findings. To say his plan failed spectacularly would be an understatement.

Unbeknownst to either me or “Stan,” police were intercepting the text messages, which included detailed descriptions of the size and likely location of the drug shipment. These text messages, and analysis of the corresponding metadata, were used to prove Barbaro had organised the drug shipment.

But that was not the only implication. Over the past six months, federal police have used the scenario as a case study to convince the Federal Government of the need to pass laws ensuring telcos store the metadata generated when a person uses a phone or computer.

As the hulking Barbaro walked around Melbourne’s CBD, meeting bikies, South Asian money launderers and other Mafia bosses, he carried up to a dozen phones. One was his personal mobile, with a subscription under his own name.

The other phones were “burners”, which were registered in false names and regularly replaced with new phones. The problem for Barbaro is that these burners were hitting the same mobile phone towers as his regular phone.

Barbaro’s personal phone and the burners were pinging off the same towers so often that police were able to prove the burners belonged to Barbaro.

According to the Director of Public Prosecution’s Andrea Pavleka, the texts sent from the “Stan” burners “showed that Barbaro had critical knowledge of the contents of that container”.

“That was a terrific link for the prosecution to have in this particular matter.”

Back in 2007, I knew none of this.

In fact, had I known my communications were being intercepted, I would have been furious.

Many of my sources are banned by their employer from speaking to me, or any other reporter, so the prospect of any innocent whistleblower being outed would have concerned me greatly.

I only learned this many months later of the interception. From all the checks I have since conducted – and there have been many – no source of mine was compromised and the AFP agents involved acted professionally and with regard to the sensitivities of my trade.

That said, ever since 2007, I have implemented a range of measures to protect sources’ communications — steps not unlike those suggested by Malcolm Turnbull during the recent debate about metadata.

Ever since the phone buzzed that day in my pocket, and “Stan” briefly entered my life, I’ve been especially conscious about how a person’s communications leave a trail, no matter how careful they are. It is a lesson the now jailed Barbaro has, no doubt, also learned well.

Watch part two of a joint Fairfax and ABC Four Corners mafia investigation on ABC1 8.30 PM Monday.

Terror diverts focus from Mafia ‘board of directors’


Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker, Michael Bachelard

Inside a mafia ecstasy sting

The Calabrian mafia was responsible for the world’s biggest ecstasy importation in 2007. As Fairfax Media and the ABC can reveal, it didn’t go to plan…

Italy’s top anti-Mafia prosecutor and Australian police are warning that the massive diversion of law-enforcement resources to combat terrorism is eroding the fight against the Mafia and other serious organised crime groups.

Australian authorities have failed for decades to dismantle the “board of directors” of Calabrian Mafia godfathers across Australia, allowing them to entrench their drug trafficking operations, build alliances with outlaw bikie gangs and infiltrate government and police agencies.

The Mafia's reach in VictoriaThe Mafia’s reach in Victoria.

A 2013 multi-agency police report warns “Ndrangheta Transnational Australian Groups” are posing an extreme risk to Australia.

Italian anti-Mafia magistrate Dr Nicola Gratteri has also warned that the Australian government has risked allowing these organised crime groups to prosper.

“When social alarm is provoked over terrorism, governments are forced to invest in terrorism and not in Mafia … the Mafia celebrates because they know there are fewer resources,” Dr Gratteri said.

The Mafia's reach in NSW.
The Mafia’s reach in NSW.

Senior police across Australia have confidentially backed these comments, saying that while terrorism was a clear priority, the focus on suspected jihadists had meant the shifting of important resources away from the fight against organised crime.

Three weeks ago, Dr Gratteri oversaw an international anti-Mafia operation, codenamed Santa Fe, which attacked the operations of the powerful Alvaro Mafia clan, seizing tonnes of cocaine and making dozens of arrests.

Confidential Italian and Australian police files state that the Alvaro clan has powerful cells operating in Australia, allegedly headed by Adelaide construction figure, Paul Alvaro, 64, and a NSW man. Mr Alvaro did not answer specific questions, but he denies any links to organised crime

The pair is aligned to a handful of figures in capital cities across the nation and in Griffith, NSW, who – according to a police assessment – operate as “an executive Board of Directors” for the Calabrian Mafia, or “Ndrangheta”.

The board “comes together on an ad hoc basis particularly in times of crisis or when the low profile of [the Calabrian Mafia], so carefully cultivated and jealously protected, is threatened,” police reports say.

NSW Police intelligence lists “the main” Calabrian Mafia clans as “the Sergi family, Trimboli family, Romeo family” who are all “based predominantly in the Griffith area.” Only a very small number of members of these families are engaged in crime and there are many Italian families who share these common surnames but who are not connected to the Calabrian Mafia.

“The criminal activities engaged in by this network have been engaged in for decades with a high level of success. Members of the network have occasionally been apprehended and imprisoned, but on the whole, internal wrangling appears to have exacted a higher toll, as family members are murdered not infrequently,” says one NSW police assessment.

In Victoria, court files allege that wealthy Melbourne businessman, Giuseppe “Bebbe” Manariti, was linked to the world’s biggest ecstasy importation in Melbourne in 2007.

Commonwealth prosecutors have alleged that Mr Manariti was briefed by the Mafia importers, stating that he was “interested in unfolding events” linked to the massive shipment.

Mr Manariti, who has never faced criminal charges, is a close associate of alleged Melbourne Mafia boss Tony Madafferi and the pair, along with deceased Mafia leader Rosario Gangemi, are considered by police to have previously formed a “trinity” that directed the Calabrian Mafia’s Melbourne operations.

Both Mr Manariti and Mr Madafferi were previously identified in a top secret 1995 anti-Mafia operation as members of the group also known as the Honoured Society.

Mr Madafferi could not be reached for comment but has previously denied any involvement in organised crime. Mr Manariti could not be reached for comment.

The police files also reveal that the Calabrian Mafia has built close ties to outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs), including the Rebels and Bandidos.

“This is particularly evident with identified connections to the Sydney and North Coast Bandidos OMCG and the Canberra and Batemans Bay Rebels OMCG. There is also intelligence of links to the Finks OMCG through associates.”

Dr Gratteri’s warning about the diversion of resources away from the organised crime fight echoes a classified National Crime Authority report in 2003.

“It is suggested that they [Australia’s Mafia cells] will neither decline nor cease their activities in the foreseeable future due to their long entrenched history in criminality in Australia, the steady market demand for cannabis and other illicit drugs and the diversion of law enforcement efforts to other areas.”

Watch part two of a joint Fairfax and ABC Four Corners mafia investigation on ABC1 8.30 PM Monday.

Judge bribes, military arms sought: the Mafia’s alleged Australian operations


Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker, Michael Bachelard

An Australian Mafia boss allegedly paid $2.2 million in bribes to  judges to get lighter jail sentences, and the Mafia have approached defence force personnel to supply them with military grade weapons, top-secret police intelligence reports reveal.

The reports also reveal the price of some food – including the price of certain types of seafood in Sydney – may be more expensive due to Mafia control of the supply chain across Australia.

Fairfax Media can also reveal that Jupiter’s Casino on the Gold Coast has become a key gambling site for Mafia figures banned over money laundering concerns from Crown Casino in Melbourne and Star City in Sydney.

Two top crime figures, including a Mafia godfather, banned from the Sydney and Melbourne casinos recently gambled large amounts at Jupiter’s, effectively rendering anti-money laundering efforts useless.

A search this month of the business holdings of all the key Mafia bosses in NSW, Victoria and South Australia also reveals their continuing control over multimillion-dollar wholesale, construction and farming businesses, including a major winery and several large fruit orchards.

A joint Fairfax Media and ABC Four Corners probe has obtained a series of confidential Australian police reports written and circulated to state agencies between 2003 and 2014.

The reports provide startling revelations about the depth of Calabrian Mafia’s infiltration into Australian life and the ambitions of the criminal group.

They reveal the group known as ‘Ndrangheta, or the Honoured Society, continues to control both legitimate and illegitimate businesses, with money earned both from the drug trade and from stand-over and extortion within pockets of Australia’s fresh food trade, trucking and construction industries.

A 2013 file, circulated among agencies, warns that the Mafia poses as “extreme” organised crime risk to the nation.

It echoes similar warnings made in a 2003 Australian Crime Commission assessment that revealed the Mafia had “infiltrated members into, or recruited people from, public organisations, government and law enforcement agencies with the lure of money”.

“[Mafia] family associates are employed in many areas of government enterprise, as well as in the telecommunications industry; bookmaking/racing; car dealerships/car repairs and hydroponic shops,” the 2003 report states.

In Victoria, Mick Gatto is named as a crime figure who works closely with the Calabrian Mafia while running his own crime syndicate.  

“Mick Gatto has shown a high awareness of law enforcement methodology and has taken a proactive approach in accessing corrupt law enforcement personnel and information to protect his ventures,” one report says.

In NSW, another Italian crime boss “is involved in a number of legitimate businesses … including car dealerships and night clubs, and is associated with at least one ex-AFP member and one corrective services person”.

NSW police intelligence also describes how detectives had discovered how “Italian Organised Crime members have actively approached members of the Australian Defence Forces for the purpose of acquiring firearms and ammunition”.

The NSW police also gathered information in 2003 that Mafia figures in Griffith, NSW – the group’s traditional stronghold – had been “receiving information from a person connected to the police in Griffith and the court”.

“It is alleged that a Sydney based IOC [Italian Organised Crime] member received light sentences in the past because he paid off [Sydney] judges, costing approximately $2.2 million.

“The protection provided to IOC members by other members comes in many forms, ranging from the simple criminal code of silence or perjury, to more sinister acts involving corrupt influence [and] abusing a position of responsibility.

“IOC groups in NSW have infiltrated members into, or recruited people from, public organisations, government and law enforcement agencies with the lure of money.”

Fairfax Media has recently spoken to senior law enforcement sources who identified a judge allegedly involved, saying he has since left the bench.

The NSW police have also discovered “information [that] suggests a monopoly exists … at the Sydney Fish Markets where private arrangements need to be made for their purchase”. The report says these arrangements allegedly involve cartel behaviour, including price fixing and threats of violence.

Police have warned that Mafia identities maintain control over the food supply chain via their ownership of farms, wholesale businesses and transport and freight firms.

Reception centres owned by Mafia bosses in Adelaide and Melbourne have been hired by unwitting police and politicians to hold functions.

An intelligence brief circulated to police across Australia in 2011 states: “The Calabrian Mafia … readily uses fruit trucks to transport cannabis to the Melbourne Fruit and Vegetable Market [from Griffith, NSW and other regional sites] to be further distributed. The trucks usually have the cannabis hidden among containers of fruit and vegetables.”

In 2003, NSW police confidentially warned that: “Investigations developed intelligence of IOC figures involved in both the Sydney fruit markets at Flemington and fish markets, as well as the Belconnen markets in Canberra”.

“[Wholesale food] markets continue to provide controlled linkages to the interstate trucking and transport industry. Again, elements of the transport infrastructure are controlled by families with connections to IOC elements. There is continuing intelligence of the exploitation of this type of freight for trafficking illicit commodities.

“The exploitation of the markets and interstate freight remains a significant area for environmental hardening and law reform.”

The revelation that Mafia figures banned from NSW and Victorian casinos over money laundering concerns are simply heading to the Gold Coast casino suggests another major weakness in anti-organised crime measures.

Police have previously warned that Mafia “identities were using casinos to launder funds through, with significant money movements through Jupiter’s Casino and Crown Casino Melbourne”.

linked with Mafia-Labor expels figure Victorian ALP delegate Michael Teti


Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker, Michael Bachelard
Frank Madafferi and Michael Teti.
Frank Madafferi and Michael Teti.

The Labor party will expel Victorian ALP delegate Michael Teti after revelations the Moreland Councillor allegedly supplied a gun to a Mafia henchman who then used it to threaten a woman, and moved funds on behalf of convicted crime boss Frank Madafferi.

Mr Teti, who was recently found guilty of weapons offences, secretly spent months working as Madafferi’s business manager in the full knowledge that  Madafferi was an underworld boss with a lengthy criminal record for violent crimes and drugs.

Mr Teti’s vehicle has also been searched multiple times by police, who have discovered drug paraphernalia — believed to be an ice pipe — and, on two separate occasions, ammunition.

Documents obtained during a major Fairfax Media and Four Corners investigation reveal that Mr Teti acted as an adviser and gofer for Madafferi while the Mafia boss was facing serious drug trafficking charges, for which he was recently jailed.

During this period, Mr Teti also secured one of Frank Madafferi’s associates – who subsequently was charged with criminal offences over a violent bashing – a job in federal Labor Senator Mehmet Tillem’s office. There is no suggestion Mr Tillem, who is no longer a senator, knew that Mr Teti or his now former employee had close ties to Madafferi.

Despite knowledge within the Labor party of Mr Teti’s ties with crime, the ALP invited him in March to the party’s state conference, allowing him to vote on policy and party issues.

The ALP scrambled to expel Mr Teti on Friday after Fairfax Media sent Premier Daniel Andrews a series of questions about Mr Teti’s behaviour.

A spokesman for the Premier said in a statement: “We have been informed that the State Secretary, Noah Carroll, has lodged the necessary documents to seek the expulsion of Mr Teti from the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party.”

The revelations about Mr Teti’s acitivities raise further questions about the Mafia’s infiltration of Australian politics.

Last year, Labor Roads and Ports minister Luke Donnellan accused a number of Liberal backbenchers of having “lips … dripping with blood from criminals” after revelations that Mafia members had organised political fundraisers for the party as recently as 2013.

Last week, Fairfax Media and Four Corners revealed police reports documenting how Mafia figures, including alleged crime bosses closely linked to Frank Madafferi, had infiltrated the Liberal Party as part of efforts to get Madafferi a visa.

Madafferi, whose criminal convictions for extortion, drugs and Mafia activity date back to the 1980s, appointed Mr Teti as his business manager in around 2013.

Confidential documents show that Mr Teti was handling Madafferi’s finances, moving money for his fruit shop businesses, Mondo Fruit, placing advertisements for Madafferi in Italian newspapers and importing foodstuffs for the crime boss from Italy. Madafferi has used his fruit shops as a base for his drug trafficking although there is no suggestion Mr Teti is personally involved in the illegal trade.

The most serious allegations involving Mr Teti relate to a gun he owned, which was allegedly used by a man called Michael Villeva, who also works for Madafferi.

Mr Villeva is suspected of using Mr Teti’s weapon to threaten a woman in Doreen in Melbourne’s north-east.

Mr Teti did not respond to specific questions about his relationship with Madafferi or Mr Villeva. But in a statement denying any wrongdoing, Mr Teti’s lawyer, Stefanie Chillico, said Mr Teti’s ties to Madafferi and Villeva were confined to a “professional relationship he had with them” while Mr Teti worked at a legal firm. Several well-placed sources said Mr Teti’s explanation was false.

Mr Teti controls two local ALP branches in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, and has had the ability with his allies in Labor’s right faction to influence the nomination of political candidates and ALP policy.

The ALP failed to take action against Mr Teti after he was found guilty late last year of weapons offences, including possessing a flick knife and carrying a loaded firearm in public. However, the full extent of Mr Teti’s activities has never been publicly revealed until now.

Fairfax Media can also reveal that Mr Teti has provided his vehicle to another alleged criminal and associate of Frank Madafferi, after which it was searched by police on Lygon street. Police found bullets and paraphernalia for using methylamphetamine inside Mr Teti’s car.

In 2012, local council records reveal that Mr Teti received political donations from Frank Madafferi’s brother, Tony Madafferi. Tony Madafferi was recently banned from Victoria’s Crown Casino by the Victoria Police chief commissioner because of his alleged organised crime ties.

Mr Teti has also been a regular visitor to one of Frank Madafferi’s Melbourne properties.

Federal police Detective Superintendent Matt Warren said Frank Madafferi “has a very high standing within the ‘Ndrangheta [Calabrian Mafia] in Melbourne,” and that any political figure needed to “be very careful in dealings with Francesco Madafferi”.

“It’s a real risk for them to be associated with organised crime figures.”

Mr Teti was found guilty last December of several weapons offences. He told police that the weapons were in his car because he planned to go on a hunting trip, which was later cancelled.

Mr Teti sought to avoid a formal finding of guilt, but Magistrate Michael Wighton found his conduct was “too serious”.

While the magistrate found Mr Teti did not have “criminal intent” when he left the weapons in his car, Mr Wighton said the firearm could have been obtained by others.

Mr Teti received a six-month good behaviour bond, with Mr Wighton saying Teti has “very good character” and his offending should not impede his “ambitions in public service”.

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