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.

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Artist and wife of embassy official Jane Hardy, Vytas Kapociunas allegedly molested child


After months and months of diplomatic bullshit at our expense, this sick pervert is going down.A sleazy “Artist” again, happened to be married to an Aussie diplomat. So what happens, Harm minimisation of course to the image…Fuck that…read on

Husband of Australian diplomat to stand trial on child sex offences

January 15, 2015 – 11:30AM

Courts reporter for The Canberra Times.

Vytas Bronius Kapociunas with his wife and former ambassador to Spain Jane Hardy.Vytas Bronius Kapociunas with his wife and former ambassador to Spain Jane Hardy. Photo: Facebook

The husband of a top Australian diplomat accused of molesting a child while overseas has been committed to stand trial.

Vytas Bronius Kapociunas, 71, maintained pleas of not guilty to three charges of sexual intercourse with a child outside Australia when he appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday.

The offences are alleged to have occurred overseas, but are before the ACT courts as the charges fall under Commonwealth law.

Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker on Thursday committed him to stand trial in the ACT Supreme Court.

Kapociunas was arrested at Canberra Airport in September last year.

Court documents said the allegation surfaced after the girl told her mother that the artist kept kissing her.

When questioned further, the girl allegedly said he “kisses me on the lips, and here,” pointing at her groin.

The mother reported the conversation to the Australian Federal Police.

Kapociunas, in a police interview, allegedly acknowledged he had had physical contact with the girl that included kissing in greeting and farewelling, piggy-back rides, and blowing raspberries on her belly button.

But he denied abusing the girl.

He was originally charged with one count of child sex and first appeared in court in October.

Two additional charges were laid in December.

The painter and sculptor is married to top Australian diplomat, Jane Hardy, who, in November, ceased her role as Australia’s ambassador to Spain and returned home almost two years into a three-year appointment.

Ms Hardy’s identity and diplomatic position were previously subject to a court suppression order, but that has now been lifted.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have emphasised that “no allegations of inappropriate or illegal behaviour” have been made against Ms Hardy.

Lithuanian-born Kapociunas studied art in South Australian and lived Spain, France and Britain before he wed Ms Hardy in 1982.

He has since accompanied her on diplomatic postings to Malaysia, South Korean, the United States, and Spain .

He work has been exhibited at the Australian embassy in Washington.

On Thursday, Ms Walker continued the defendants bail, but added the condition that he notify the court if he changes address.

The case will appear in the Supreme Court for directions next month.


 

Australian diplomat returned from posting after husband charged over child-sex allegations

January 14, 2015 – 4:31PM

Vytas Bronius Kapociunas with his wife and former ambassador to Spain Jane Hardy.Vytas Bronius Kapociunas with his wife and former ambassador to Spain Jane Hardy. Photo: Facebook

One of Australia’s top diplomats has returned early from an overseas posting after her spouse was arrested and charged with child sex offences. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed that Jane Hardy ceased duty as Australia’s ambassador to Spain on November 3, 2014, less than two years into what would normally be a three-year appointment.

A DFAT spokesperson declined to answer Fairfax Media questions about the precise circumstances leading to the ambassador’s return to Australia, only saying Ms Hardy “returned by mutual agreement with the department.”

Charged: Vytas Bronius Kapociunas, 71, is accused of child sex offences.

Charged: Vytas Bronius Kapociunas, 71, is accused of child sex offences.

However it is a matter of public record that the Australian Federal Police arrested Ms Hardy’s husband, artist Vytas Kapociunas, on September 20, 2014, in relation to an allegation of sexual intercourse with a child outside Australia. 

Mr Kapociunas, now aged 71, appeared before the ACT Magistrates Court in Canberra on October 3 in relation to one charge of sexual intercourse with a child outside of Australia. Two additional charges of sexual intercourse with a child outside of Australia were laid against Mr Kapociunas in December. He has pleaded not guilty to all three charges. 

The sculptor and painter first came to police attention after the girl told her mother that she had a secret to tell her.

“I need to tell you a secret,” the child said, according to court documents. “I think Vytas really likes me, because he keeps kissing me.”

The AFP say the mother questioned her daughter further, and the girl allegedly said: “He kisses me on the lips, and here,” pointing to her groin.

The mother contacted the AFP who opened an investigation and interviewed the girl.

Mr Kapociunas was informed of the allegations on September 17 and was met by AFP officers at Canberra Airport three days later.  He agreed to an interview in which, according to police, he acknowledged he had met the girl three times and had physical contact with her including kissing.  However he denied he had committed any child sex offences, saying he was “unsure” why the girl would say such things. He was then arrested. 

Born in Lithuania in 1943, Mr Kapociunas studied at the South Australian School of Art and spent his early post-graduate years in Spain, France and Britain . He married Ms Hardy in 1982 and accompanied her on diplomatic postings to Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Washington DC and most recently Madrid.  In 2008 his sculpture Passage through Fire was exhibited at the Australian embassy in Washington.

Ms Hardy’s identity and position were subject to a temporary court suppression order, now no longer in force. not anymore

DFAT has emphasised that “no allegations of inappropriate or illegal behaviour” have been made against Ms Hardy who assumed duty as ambassador to Spain in January 2013.

“Ms Hardy performed creditably in her role in Spain and, following her return, has taken up a suitably senior position in Canberra,” a departmental spokesperson said.

DFAT’s organisation chart shows Ms Hardy is now in charge of the department’s arms control and counter-proliferation branch.

Her executive assistant told Fairfax Media she is not currently in Canberra and cannot be contacted.

A new ambassador to Spain has not yet been appointed.

Mr Kapociunas’s solicitor, Chloe Preston, declined to comment. His case is listed for a further procedural hearing in the Magistrates Court on January 15.


 

Artist pleads not guilty to child sex offences allegedly linked to overseas Australian embassy

Date
December 4, 2014

Reporter for The Canberra Times.

An Australian artist has been accused of two more sexual offences against a child connected to an overseas Australian embassy.

Sculptor and painter Vytas Bronius Kapociunas, 70, is facing the ACT Magistrates Court, accused of molesting a child overseas.

He was charged on Thursday with two additional offences of sexual intercourse with a minor outside of Australia, meaning he is now charged with three offences.

Kapociunas, represented by lawyer Chloe Preston, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

He first came to police attention when his alleged victim told her mother she had a secret.

“I need to tell you a secret,” the girl allegedly said.

“I think Vytas really likes me, because he keeps kissing me.”

She also allegedly told her mother:

“He kisses me on the lips and here”, pointing to her groin.

Police went to meet Kapociunas at Canberra Airport earlier this year and he agreed to an interview, court documents suggest.

He told police he had no idea why the girl had been saying such things. Kapociunas denied her allegations.

He was arrested and initially charged with a single count of having sexual intercourse with a child outside Australia, which is a Commonwealth offence.

The artist allegedly told police he piggy-backed the girl, blew raspberries on her belly button, and that she kissed him on the lips when saying hello and goodbye.

The case was adjourned by Magistrate Robert Cook until January.


 

Artist Vytas Kapociunas allegedly molested child linked to overseas embassy

October 17, 2014

Christopher Knaus

An Australian artist has been accused of molesting a child connected to an overseas embassy.

Well-known sculptor and painter Vytas Bronius Kapociunas, 70, was arrested earlier this year after a young girl at an Australian embassy alleged he sexually assaulted her.

Kapociunas, who is fighting the allegation, first came to police attention after the girl told her mother that she had a secret to tell her.

“I need to tell you a secret,” the girl said, according to court documents. “I think Vytas really likes me, because he keeps kissing me.”

Police say the mother questioned her daughter further, and the girl said:

“He kisses me on the lips, and here”, pointing to her groin.

The offence is alleged to have occurred overseas, but is now being prosecuted in the ACT under Commonwealth law.

The mother called the Australian Federal Police, who began investigating, and went to meet Kapociunas at Canberra Airport last month.

He agreed to an interview and denied the allegations, claiming he had no idea why the girl would say such things.

Police arrested the artist, and he is currently before the ACT Magistrates Court on one charge of sexual intercourse with a child outside Australia, an offence under the Commonwealth Criminal Code.

He appeared before Magistrate Peter Morrison on Friday morning, and pleas of not guilty were entered on his behalf.

The artist told police during an interview that he had piggy-backed the victim and blown raspberries on her belly button, and that she kissed him on the lips when saying hello and goodbye.

But he denied to police that he had committed any child sex offences.

The court heard on Friday the brief of evidence against him was mostly prepared, and the case was adjourned until December. 

Kapociunas is an artist who has worked across Australia and the world, and studied and taught in South Australia.

He has also studied at the University of Canberra, according to his earlier news reports, and has written children’s books.


 

MARTIN PLACE SIEGE REVIEW-Terms of Reference


MARTIN PLACE SIEGE – JOINT COMMONWEALTH – NEW SOUTH WALES REVIEW

17 December 2014

Prime Minister

Premier of New South Wales

E&OE

In the aftermath of the horrific Martin Place siege and following the tragic loss of innocent lives, we must learn what we can from this incident and implement any changes necessary at the State and Federal level.

The Commonwealth and New South Wales governments will urgently conduct a review into the Martin Place siege and what lessons can be learned from the events leading up to and surrounding the siege.

As our State and Commonwealth law enforcement and security agencies work together to keep Australia safe, the review will identify important lessons for the future.

The review will examine and make recommendations about a wide range of issues including the circumstances surrounding hostage-taker Man Haron Monis’ arrival in Australia and subsequent granting of asylum and citizenship; what information agencies had about him and how it was shared; and whether relevant national security legislative powers could have been better used.

The Terms of Reference for the review are attached.

As we work to learn what we can from these terrible events, we acknowledge once again the courage and professionalism shown by our law enforcement and security agencies and emergency services.

We are determined to ensure that nothing stands in the way of ensuring the people who put their lives on the line to keep Australia safe can get their job done.

We have asked the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Secretary of the New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet to commence the review immediately, drawing on expertise from within our relevant jurisdictions and consulting as necessary with other States and Territories.

The review will report by the end of January 2015.

Martin Place Siege – Terms of Reference

On 17 December 2014 the Prime Minister and Premier of NSW established a review, for consideration by the Commonwealth and NSW Cabinets, of lessons learnt from the Martin Place Siege of 15-16 December 2014.

The aim of the review is to identify lessons for the future: what worked well and what might be improved.

The review will examine and make recommendations in respect of Commonwealth and NSW agencies and the cooperation between them, in relation to:

  • the arrival of Man Haron Monis in Australia and subsequent grant of asylum, permanent residency and Australian citizenship;
  • support received from, or any other interactions Man Haron Monis had with, government social support agencies;
  • information held by Commonwealth and NSW agencies about Man Haron Monis for the period prior to and following his arrival in Australia up until the siege including how any information relevant to public safety was shared between, and used by, agencies;
  • the interaction of Man Haron Monis with the NSW justice system;
  • Man Haron Monis’ access to firearms;
  • whether, how and at what stage relevant national security legislative powers including Control Orders were or could have been used in relation to Man Haron Monis’ activities of security concern;
  • any lessons learnt by the NSW and Australian Federal Police about the handling of the siege;
  • the effectiveness of public communication including coordination of messaging between the Commonwealth, NSW and jurisdictions; and
  • the effectiveness of coordination more generally between the Commonwealth and NSW.

The review will take account of the parallel investigations into the incident including by the NSW State Coroner, and NSW Police and Australian Federal Police.

The review will prepare a report for consideration by the Commonwealth and NSW Cabinets by the end of January 2015.

17 December 2014

Abdul Numan Haider shot dead by anti-terrorist officers


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No wonder the authorities are asking for calm after the shooting death of a Abdul Numan Haider. I must say that it may make any other young impressionable people being drawn into the filth that is called ISIS and their so-called goals to THINK AGAIN.

Police have every right to defend themselves and ask questions later. Think about what would have happened if this bloke walking into a doctors, or school, or office? It is NOT ON

Officials name Abdul Numan Haider as man shot dead by anti-terrorist officers

Wed 24 Sep 2014, 2:17p

Senior law enforcement officials have named the 18-year-old man who was shot dead after stabbing two officers from the Joint Counter Terrorism team outside a Melbourne police station last night.

Abdul Numan Haider was the “person of interest” who was expected to attend an interview at the Endeavour Hills Police Station when the incident occurred, senior law enforcement sources confirmed.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said Haider, who was under investigation and had his passport cancelled, was allegedly seen last week with an Islamic State flag.

“There’s certainly information that he was present at the shopping centre in the last week or so with the flag that appeared to be an ISIS flag,” Chief Commissioner Lay said.

“It’s not an offence but clearly it drew our attention to this person and we had a conversation with this person.”

Haider, whose family are from Afghanistan, had also been associated with the radical Islamic group called Al-Furqan.

It is understood he had recently moved away from the group.

Based in Springvale, in Melbourne’s south-east, associates of Al-Furqan were the targets of terrorism raids by Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police in 2012.

Chief Commissioner Lay said Haider attacked a police officer who tried to shake his hand outside the station, and then stabbed another officer, about 7:40pm (AEST) on Tuesday.

“When our police members have approached this young man, one’s extended his hand to shake his hand and the response has been he’s been stabbed in the arm,” he said.

“The attacker’s then turned on the second police member and stabbed him three or four times in the body and in the head.

“The first wounded member has then shot and killed the young man.”

One of the injured officers is from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the other is a Victoria Police member, they were both rushed to hospital.

Chief Commissioner Lay said both police officers required surgery.

The ABC has been told that Haider had made threats against the Prime Minister, however AFP Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin said no specific threats were made.

“This is early stages of an investigation … What I will say is and what I can be very confident on is there were no specific threats made,” he said.

Haider’s car is parked at a childcare centre next to the police station and the area is locked down.

Natalie Morales, who works at the childcare centre, said staff were unable to contact parents this morning to tell them the facility was closed, because the contact lists were in the building.

“That can happen anywhere around Australia, unfortunately it happened next door to the childcare I work at,” Ms Morales said.

“Even if it happened during the day, we have a pin code that only the staff and families know, so no-one can access the centre even if we had children in the centre.”

Abbott speaks to family of injured officers

Speaking in Hawaii while en route to a UN Security Council meeting in New York, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Melbourne incident was “nasty” and showed the threat from extremists was real.

“Obviously, this indicates that there are people in our community who are capable of very extreme acts,” he said.

“It also indicates that the police will be constantly vigilant to protect us against people who would do us harm.”

Mr Abbott said he had spoken to the wives of both police officers involved.

Chief Commissioner Lay said the stab wounds to the police officers were significant and required surgery, but that both officers were in a stable condition this morning.

“Our AFP colleague underwent surgery overnight for some significant injuries, he’s come through that surgery it appears pretty well, he’s in a serious but stable condition,” Chief Commissioner Lay said.

“Our Victorian Police member has had quite a significant stab wound to his arm, I understand he’ll undergo surgery today to repair some ligament and nerve damage.

“So the physical injuries will heal quick enough and obviously we need to think about the psychological stuff and give these people as much support as we possibly can.”

Victorian Premier urges community to unite

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said it was important that the incident did not divide the community.

“Let me make it very, very clear, one of the greatest strengths, one of the greatest assets we have here in Victoria is our harmonious, diverse, multi cultural, multi-faith community,” Dr Napthine said.

“We need to preserve and protect that. We need to enhance and build on that.

“We shouldn’t let a single incident divide that. We need to show each other respect, be tolerant and remain united.”

He said authorities were working together to ensure the safety of the community.

“It is imperative that we do all that we can to reassure all members of the Victorian community that everything is being done to protect our safety and making sure that our community continues to work together as a whole Victorian community,” Dr Napthine said.

Islamic leaders criticise police investigation

Leaders of Melbourne’s Islamic community have criticised police over their investigation into the fatal shooting.

Gaith Krayem from the Islamic Council of Victoria said police were quick to jump to conclusions.

“I was disappointed with the immediate press conference police held last night. It was held three hours after the event, and they drew conclusions immediately,” Mr Krayem said.

“There needs to be a proper process as there always should be when police are involved in a fatality.”

What we do know is that there’s an 18-year-old young man who is dead this morning, there are two police officers in hospital, there is a family who is grieving.

Gaith Krayem

Mr Krayen said the public needed to reserve their judgement until a full and objective investigation has taken place.

“Immediately, individuals such as this unfortunately are given these labels of a radical, or a terrorist, or an extremist,” he said.

“Unfortunately, because of the environment we’re in, as soon as you label somebody like that, people don’t want to then question what occurred.

“We don’t know really what happened when this young man arrived at the police station.

“What we do know is that there’s an 18-year-old young man who is dead this morning, there are two police officers in hospital, there is a family who is grieving.”

Aussie Terror cell planned to behead member of public


The details are emerging these animals had plans in place to snatch a person off the street in Sydney and drape them in the Islamic State flag and behead them on camera as propaganda to spread around the world no doubt. It goes to say it would not be the only one. The world needs to unite in STOPPING this murderous group using all force necessary

12.05pm 18/09/14 quick update the police will not reveal exactly

They planned to execute by beheading, in a very HIGH PROFILE location in SYDNEY for all to see

Video of police raids this morning as supplied by NSW Police

Hundreds of police mount anti-terror raids in Sydney and Brisbane cell planned to behead member of public

Thu 18 Sep 2014, 10:29am

Court documents are expected to reveal that this morning’s huge anti-terror raids were aimed at a cell which planned to behead a member of the public in Sydney.

The documents are expected to say that the plan involved snatching a random member of the public in Sydney, draping them in an Islamic State flag and beheading them on camera.

One person has been charged and 15 detained after the raids, which involved 800 police officers in Sydney and Brisbane.


Anti-terror operation in Sydney and Brisbane ‘thwarted’ beheading plot

Updated 2 minutes agoThu 18 Sep 2014, 10:46am

Police say a large-scale anti-terrorism raid in Sydney this morning has foiled a plot to “commit violent acts” in Australia, including a plan to behead a member of the public.

More than 800 officers launched the raids as part of Operation Appleby in suburbs across Sydney’s west and north-west, with a further 70 police involved in raids on properties in Brisbane’s south.

Police said 15 people had been detained in Sydney as part of the operation between NSW officers, the Australian Federal Police and ASIO.

Court documents are expected to reveal that the raids were aimed at a cell which planned to behead a member of the public in Sydney.

The documents are expected to say that the plan involved snatching a random member of the public in Sydney, draping them in an Islamic State flag and beheading them on camera.

AFP Acting Commissioner Andrew Colvin said one person has been charged with serious terrorism-related offences and will appear at central Local Court in Sydney later today.

He said the operation commenced earlier this year and had interrupted a terrorist attack in Australia.

“Police believe that this group that we have executed this operation on today had the intention and had started to carry out planning to commit violent acts here in Australia,” he said.

“Those violent acts particularly related to random acts against members of the public.”

Commissioner Colvin said the raids in Brisbane were not “directly linked” to the raids in Sydney, but authorities were looking to see whether there were any links.

He said the Brisbane raids were linked to a similar operation in Queensland last week, when an Islamic bookshop was searched, and two men arrested.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the raids reflected “the reality of the threat we actually face”.

“You know it is of serious concern that right at the heart of our communities we have people who are planning to conduct random attacks,” he said.

“Today we work together to make sure that didn’t happen. We have disrupted that particular attack.

“Our police will continue to work tirelessly to prevent any such attacks but certainly can I stress that right now, is a time for calm.

“We don’t need to whip this up.”

He said cars were also searched in the raids and at least one weapon was seized.

A total of 25 search warrants were executed in the Sydney suburbs of Bancroft, Bellavista, Guildford, Merrylands, Northmen, Wentworthville, Mansfield, Western Castle Hill, Hevesy, Bass Hill and Regents Park.

Similar raids took place in Brisbane with officers conducting searches on properties at Creek Road in Mt Gravatt East, as well as Logan and Underwood.

He said the Brisbane raids were linked to a similar operation in Queensland last week, when an Islamic bookshop was searched, and two men arrested.

The men have been accused of helping to recruit, facilitate and fund people to travel to Syria to engage in hostile activities.

Queensland Police Minister Jack Dempsey has sought to assure people in the state that they were safe.

“Obviously with the lead-in to G20 we’re already at a certain risk level which ensures that Queenslanders are even safer than most other states and territories in Australia,” he said.

Helicopters, loudspeakers involved in Guildford raid

ABC reporter Lucy Carter said part of Bursill Street in Guildford was still blocked off by police, where a home was being raided.

“[Police] are questioning a number of people on the front balcony of a single-storey home,” she said.

“Neighbours say police burst into the house before dawn, shouting through loudspeakers and with a helicopter hovering overhead.

“Right now police are removing items including computers from this Guildford home, and a sniffer dog has also been brought in.

Neighbours said the occupants had only lived in the house for about three weeks.

A resident of Bursill Street, who wished to remain anonymous, has been trying to come to terms with the raids.

“I just find it so wrong for that to be happening here in Australia. How do we get to this stage that people are this out of control?” he said.

“You talk about the money going overseas – earlier this morning I heard $18 million or $20 million going overseas, and we don’t know about it until it’s too late.”

Officers are refusing to give more information at this stage, as the operation is still underway.

They say they will provide updates throughout the morning.

Man claims he was punched by officer in raids

One man who was at one of the raided properties when police arrived claims to have been punched by an officer.

Maywand Osman, who was detained during the raids but not arrested, said: “I opened the door this morning at 4:45am to about four police officers.”

“They asked me to raise my hands. I immediately raised my hands. Four officers then jumped at me and one punched me in the face.

“They threw me to the ground and started hitting me in the head and pulling my hair.

“One officer grabbed me by the hair and said ‘you piece of shit’. While they were beating me I heard one officer say ‘just don’t make him bleed’.

“They then went inside my house to conduct a search. They found nothing in my house and I was not under arrest or in custody at any point in time.”

A statement released by Mr Osman’s solicitor said: “My client was brutally attacked by four police officers this morning without provocation.”

“He sustained injuries to the face and head. He was escorted to hospital by ambulance.”

Commissioner Colvin said he was personally not aware of the claims.

Raids follow terror alert level raise: terrorism expert

Greg Barton, who heads the Global Terrorism Centre at Monash University, said the raids followed the warning issued by ASIO director David Irvine.

On Friday, authorities announced Australia’s terror alert level had been lifted to high, meaning the risk of an attack is likely.

“He said there was considerable amounts of intelligence about plots underway and that’s why he had to raise the terror alert level,” Mr Barton said.

“Of course that begs the question: if they know about plots under the way what are they doing to intercept them? Now we’re finding the answers today.”

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told the ABC’s AM program that the raids demonstrate the “very real threat that’s there”.

“I think again [the operation] supports why the Government has been so strong in its response to this threat,” he said.

He said the Government was working closely with the Islamic community “more broadly” and that “goodwill exists”.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Radio National this morning that the raids demonstrate Australian authorities are keeping the nation safe.

“Our security is the consequence of continued vigilance and hard work on the part of the security agencies,” he said.

“There is no cause, no reason, for being complacent about security.

“There are people regrettably, some of them in our midst, that don’t have the nation’s best interests at heart.”

Ikebal Patel from Muslims Australia told AM that the Islamic community has been stunned by the raids.

“Details are very sketchy and we don’t even know who the individuals are and from which particular area, or sort of association they are part of,” he said.

“So, it’s all very very sketchy. It’s all moving very fast.”

The ABC understands the raids are linked to a similar operation in Queensland last week, when an Islamic bookshop was searched, and two men arrested.

The men have been accused of helping to recruit, facilitate and fund people to travel to Syria to engage in hostile activities.


 

David Eastman gets bail- conviction quashed and a retrial ordered.


David Eastman: The history of a legal saga spanning 25 years

Fri 22 Aug 2014, 3:16pm

David Eastman was arrested for murder in 1992.

Photo: David Eastman was arrested for murder in 1992. (ABC News)

David Harold Eastman is at the centre of one of Australia’s longest-running legal sagas.

He has served more than 19 years in jail for the 1989 murder of Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Winchester in Canberra.

Today the ACT Supreme Court has quashed his conviction and ordered a retrial.

In May the Martin inquiry recommended Eastman’s murder conviction be quashed, primarily because of flaws in the forensic case developed by scientist Robert Collins Barnes.

Inquiry head Justice Brian Martin found Eastman did not receive a fair trial and there had been a substantial miscarriage of justice.

He said a retrial would not be feasible nor fair, but that the conviction should be quashed.

That was despite Justice Martin saying he personally thought Eastman was guilty.

A full bench of the Supreme Court, made up of three acting Judges appointed to sit on the ACT bench, Justice Steven Rares, Justice Michael Wigney and Acting Justice Dennis Cowdroy, spent a month considering the report after taking submissions from the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions and Eastman’s lawyers.

Eastman has lost numerous appeals

Eastman became a suspect for the murder of Mr Winchester the day after the killing.

David Eastman’s legal battle timeline

  • January 10, 1989 – AFP assistant commissioner Colin Winchester shot dead in his neighbour’s driveway
  • January 11, 1989 – David Harold Eastman becomes a suspect
  • August 1989 – Inquest into the death commences and ends with an open finding
  • November 1992 – Inquest reopens
  • December 24, 1992 – Eastman committed to stand trial for murder
  • May 16, 1995 – Eastman arraigned on one count of murder, trial begins
  • June 29, 1995 – Eastman’s bail revoked after a dispute with Justice Kenneth Carruthers
  • November 3, 1995 – Eastman found guilty of murder
  • November 10, 1995 – Eastman sentenced to life in prison
  • May 2000 – High Court challenges to overturn conviction dismissed
  • October 6, 2005 – Miles inquiry reports Eastman was fit to plead except for a short period – conviction stands
  • September 3, 2012 – Justice Shane Marshall orders inquiry into Eastman’s conviction
  • November 5, 2013 – Eastman inquiry begins
  • May 30, 2014 – Inquiry recommends Eastman’s conviction be quashed
  • August 22, 2014- ACT Supreme Court quashes Eastman’s conviction and orders retrial

Mr Winchester was shot as he got out of his car in his neighbour’s driveway at Deakin on January 10, 1989.

Detectives targeted Eastman who had threatened Mr Winchester after he refused to help him have an assault charge withdrawn.

Eastman believed if he was convicted for that crime it would thwart his bid to rejoin the public service.

Eastman was eventually convicted of killing Colin Winchester in 1995 and sentenced to life in jail.

He has long protested his innocence, through numerous appeals including in the High Court.

A major inquiry also considered Eastman’s fitness to plead at the original trial.

His court appearances were often fraught and unpredictable as he regularly sacked his legal team, including during the original trial.

In the end, Eastman’s murder conviction was secured by the forensic case which included key evidence linking Eastman’s car with the scene of the shooting.

Sentencing him in 1995, Justice Ken Carruthers said: “This investigation must surely rank as one of the most skilled, sophisticated and determined forensic investigations in the history of criminal investigation in Australia.”

But the recent inquiry turned that on its head.

The critical issue was that Mr Barnes had claimed gunshot residue in Eastman’s car was indistinguishable from that at the scene.

In the latest inquiry he was forced to concede that the evidence was misleading and the link between the scene and Eastman’s car was discredited.

From there the forensic case crumbled amid revelations there had been inadequate record-keeping and evidence had been destroyed.

The Martin Inquiry made other adverse findings about the prosecution and police not making disclosures to the defence.

The inquiry also considered fresh evidence in secret hearings about the possibility of Mafia involvement.

But in the end it was the forensic case which determined the outcome.

In his report, Justice Martin wrote: “The issue of guilt was determined on the basis of deeply flawed forensic evidence in circumstances where the applicant was denied procedural fairness in respect of a fundamental feature of the trial process concerned with disclosure by the prosecution of all relevant material.

“In addition, evidence of inadequacies and flaws in the case file and case work of the key forensic scientists were unknown to everyone involved in the investigation and trial.”

Justice Martin said he thought Eastman had probably committed the crime, but had not had a fair trial and his conviction should be quashed.

“In my view the substantial miscarriage of justice suffered by the applicant should not be allowed to stand uncorrected,” he wrote.

His findings gave a dramatic twist to one of the most significant legal battles in Australia’s history.

AFP get another 135 kg of ICE worth $130m off our streets


Follow the money and the drugs will follow. The minnows they caught with the drugs are disposable, with a queue of guys ready to take their places.

That is a lot of money to the man on the street to lose, but if you haven’t seen the brilliant show called “breaking bad”. The drugs they lost are are a mere few batches away for the big players. Not much else the Australian Federal Police can do.

from the ABC Thu 31 Jul 2014, 9:36am

A joint AFP-ACC raid in Melbourne has netted 135 kilograms of methamphetamine.

A joint AFP-ACC raid in Melbourne has netted 135 kilograms of methamphetamine. (ABC News: Tony Nicholls)

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) have seized 135 kilograms of methamphetamine with a street value of $130 million from a Melbourne apartment.

Police said they located four suitcases containing the drugs in an inner city Melbourne apartment on Tuesday night.

The drugs represent 1.3 million street deals, police said.

The AFP and Australian Crime Commission (ACC) executed search warrants in Melbourne yesterday and arrested four Taiwanese nationals, all aged in their twenties.

Eligo Taskforce since 2012:

  • Aprox $40 million in cash seized
  • Over $800 million of illicit drugs seized
  • $30 million in assets restrained
  • Identified more than 179 targets previously unknown to law enforcement officials
  • Disrupted 25 serious organised crime groups
  • Shut down 18 clandestine drug labs, three of which were commercial scale
  • Raised $12 million in tax assessments with 150 referrals to the ATO for further action on evasion and money laundering.

The seizure and arrests comes after intelligence from the Eligo National Task Force.

AFP Commander Bruce Giles said it was a significant seizure for the country and the state.

“Ice, we see as one of the most dangerous and insidious diseases in our communities and the fact that we have removed over 1.3 million street deals of methamphetamine has got to be good for the Victorian and Australian community,” he said.

“I think in terms of an organised crime syndicate operating in Australia, clearly they will see yet again that agencies cooperate effectively together to join forces to combat the drug trade.”

The four men, Chun Lan, 28, Ming Hsuan Ou and Li Ping Chen, both 23, and Shu Yi Lin, 20, appeared briefly in the Melbourne Magistrates Court just before 1:00pm (AEST).

They were all charged with possessing and trafficking a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug. The charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The 135kg of crystal methylamphetamine, or ice, worth about $130 million

The 135kg of crystal methylamphetamine, or ice, worth about $130 million

The court heard the men, who were assisted by a translator, have Australian tourist visas and their arrest yesterday is their first time in custody.

They have been remanded in custody until their next court hearing. Magistrate Jelena Popovic told the men they could apply for bail at any time.

They will return to court on November 5 for a committal mention.


A Melbourne ice haul of 135kg packed into suitcases has been uncovered after authorities tracked profits of a crime syndicate.

Authorities tracking money linked to offshore crime syndicates have seized $130 million worth of ice packed into plastic bags and stacked in four bulging suitcases in a Melbourne apartment.

Four Taiwanese nationals in Australia on tourist visas have been charged over the crystal methylamphetamine haul.

More than 135kg of the drug was seized, an amount which police say would have been on-sold to users 1.3 million times over.

A joint Australian Federal Police and Australian Crime Commission (ACC) operation netted the illicit product, after intelligence was provided through the Eligo national task force which tracks money laundering.

ACC national manager of investigations Richard Grant said people were increasingly being targeted by cartels and offshore syndicates, focused purely on profit.

“One of the things for the Eligo task force is going after the profits and this is how we were able to track these particular syndicate members to end up with these seizures,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

AFP commander Bruce Giles said the bust was significant and investigations into the exact source of the drugs were ongoing.

“Traditionally with this quantity of ice, you would expect it to come by land or sea,” he said.

The drugs were found in four suitcases in an inner-city Melbourne apartment on Tuesday afternoon.

Four men have been charged with a range of drug offences.

A brief hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday was told the men were in Australia on tourist visas and have no fixed address within the country.

Shu Yi Lin, 20, and Li Ping Chen, 23, were both charged with possessing a commercial quantity of ice suspected of being illegally imported.

Chun Lan, 28, and Ming Hsuan Ou, 23, were each charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of ice.

Two men arrested over insider trading, abuse of public office


Silly young blokes. university educated, obviously smart (and greedy) but have ruined their lives taking on the system. Tough luck boys.7 million dollars down the drain with your careers!

Insider trading sting: Australian Bureau of Statistics employee Christopher Russell Hill to be extradited over alleged $7m scam

Updated 2 hours 28 minutes ago

Photo: Christopher Hill is escorted by police at Canberra Airport. 

A 24-year-old Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) employee will be extradited to Victoria to face charges over an alleged $7 million insider trading scam.

Christopher Russell Hill made a brief appearance in the ACT Magistrates Court this morning, where he was refused bail.

The statistician is accused of sharing unpublished ABS data with friend Lukas Kamay, an NAB employee in Melbourne, to predict movements in the Australian dollar.

The charges laid by ASIC and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) include insider trading, money laundering and abuse of public office.

Authorities allege Kamay pocketed the majority of the $7 million windfall, while Hill allegedly made $60,000.

The court heard that Hill wrote the ABS data on a notepad to avoid electronic detection systems.

He is alleged to have shared the information with Kamay via phones the pair had bought under false names.

Authorities say they began investigating after being alerted to “suspicious activity” on the foreign exchange market between August last year and May this year.

Kamay faced the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday afternoon on seven charges and was released on bail.

However, Magistrate Bernadette Boss refused Hill’s application for bail on Saturday, accepting prosecution arguments that he may be tempted to abscond.

Photo: Former NAB employee Lukas Kamay after he was charged over insider trading yesterday.

The court also heard Hill lives with another ABS employee. Magistrate Boss agreed with prosecutors that there was a likelihood the defendant may attempt to interfere with evidence.

The prosecution said they have a strong case against Hill, who is likely to spend time in jail if convicted.

The court heard three of the four charges against Hill attract a penalty of up to 10 years’ jail, while the fourth attracts a prison term of up to five years.

He has been with the ABS for about three years.

Charges come after AFP raids homes

The AFP obtained eight warrants to search the NAB in Melbourne and the ABS in Canberra, as well as private homes in both cities.

They seized a property, a motor vehicle and funds totalling about $7 million.

Police also allege they found $9,950 cash hidden in a wardrobe at Hill’s Belconnen property.

The NAB says it has terminated Kamay’s employment while the ABS has suspended Hill, whom it describes as “a relatively junior officer with trusted access” to information.

The two men attended Melbourne’s Monash University together and police say it was during that time they struck up a friendship.

In an internal memo obtained by the ABC, the ABS told staff it is the first time ever that a staff member has been arrested for leaking data.

“Even though this is the first time in our history of more than 100 years that a staff member has been arrested for leaking statistics, it has the potential to tarnish our reputation as a trusted custodian of sensitive data,” the memo said.

“We will undertake a thorough review to learn what we can from this incident. Fortunately, the police believe that no other ABS staff were involved.”

The Australian Shareholders Association says investors should have confidence in the financial regulatory system.

Spokesman Stephen Mayne told AM the allegations are startling but there are strong signs the system is working.

“It’s reassuring, if you believe the press reports, that the broker involved referred the trades to the authorities and the alleged crimes have been detected,” he said.

“But it’s certainly stunning in terms of the level of detail of the allegations being made by federal police and ASIC.”

ASIC will not specify how it became aware of the transactions, but says there are a range of ways it can be alerted to insider trading, including complaints, tip-offs and surveillance.

The men have been arrested by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for offences relating to insider trading after police seized $7 million in alleged proceeds of crime.

They were arrested under a joint major operation by the AFP and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) into suspicious trading in the foreign exchange derivatives market.

Insider trading sting: $7m in assets seized as NAB employee, Bureau of Statistics officer arrested over currency deals

Two men in their twenties who worked at the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the National Australia Bank have been charged with insider trading on foreign currency markets.

Former NAB employee Lukas Kamay has been charged over insider trading.

Former NAB employee Lukas Kamay has been charged over insider trading.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) alleges 26-year-old former NAB employee Lukas Kamay, based in Melbourne, used unpublished unemployment, retail and trade data obtained through the ABS officer to trade in foreign exchange derivatives.

Police allege Mr Kamay paid friend Christopher Russell Hill between $50,000 and $60,000 to persuade him to provide information related to confidential statistics held by the ABS.

“In effect, he utilised sensitive ABS information to predict the fluctuations in the Australian dollar,” AFP spokesman Ian McCartney said.

The two men attended university together and police say it was during that time they struck up a friendship.

Authorities will allege Kamay pocketed the majority of the $7 million windfall and will not specify how the pair communicated, although they say it was “regular” but “varied”.

Authorities say they began investigating after being alerted to “suspicious activity” on the foreign exchange market between August last year and May this year.

ASIC will not specify how it became aware of the transactions, but says there are a range of ways it can be alerted to insider trading, including complaints, tip-offs and surveillance.

The AFP obtained eight warrants to search the NAB in Melbourne and the ABS in Canberra as well as private homes in both cities.

They seized a property, a motor vehicle and funds totalling around $7 million earlier today.

Kamay appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court today charged with insider trading, corruption of a public official, and money laundering.

Police say he was operating independently of his employer and did not use any of the bank’s systems to carry out his alleged crimes. He has since been sacked from his job with the bank.

The 24-year-old ABS employee will be charged with insider trading, receiving a corrupt benefit, release of sensitive information and abuse of public office.

“This has been a complex investigation” Mr McCartney said.

Chris Savundra from the corporate regulator ASIC says the Australian dollar is one of the most actively traded currencies on the global foreign exchange market.

“The alleged conduct has the potential to undermine confidence in the integrity of the foreign exchange market and disadvantage those that participate in the market without that inside information,” he said.

The AFP says both the NAB and ABS co-operated with their investigation.

 

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