Drug Lord Tony Mokbel and ecstasy trafficker Rob Karam have moved a giant leap forward in their bids for freedom after Victoria Police’s mismanagement of Lawyer X saw convicted killer Faruk Orman released.
In what has become Victoria Police’s worst nightmare come true, the convicted killer of gangster Victor Pierce was released on Friday by the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal.
It is a scenario the bungling chiefs of Victorian Police assured would never eventuate.
Tony Mokbel is hoping to be released from jail. Like Orman, he was represented by Lawyer X, Nicola Gobbo
Melbourne gangland identity Faruk Orman walked free after having his murder conviction overturned because of the Lawyer X scandal
For years the scandal could not even be spoken about.
And when it was revealed, police and politicians assured no-one would be strolling free from jail.
But the tainted handling of barrister Nicola Gobbo was on Thursday put on display for all to hear, including several of Gobbo’s previous clients who continue to rot behind bars.
Orman’s release could have huge implications over the convictions of everyone from Mokbel to Mafia head Pat Barbaro.
Ms Gobbo claimed she helped in the arrest and charging of at least 386 people, including playing a pivotal role in solving several underworld murders.
She told police she became an informer in part because ‘She was frustrated at the Mokbels’ capacity to use lawyers to control others around them and with being stood over by criminals.’
Ms Gobbo went so far as to provide a ‘Top 10’ of crooks she helped to bring down.
The list contains a swag of colourful Melbourne identities, including major drug traffickers John Higgs and Tony Mokbel’s brother Milad.
Barbaro was pinged in the infamous $440 million ‘Tomato Tins’ drug sting in 2007 which saw 32 Mafia figures jailed.
There is no catch to Orman’s release from jail.
The smiling, previously convicted assassin, simply walked out of jail a free man after 12 long years behind bars.
He had been sentenced to serve 20 years.
He was alleged to have been the driver for hitman Andrew ‘Benji’’ Veniamin in the 2002 shooting of Peirce in Bay St, Port Melbourne.
Police never had any doubt he was behind the wheel.
The High Court of Australia in November described Victoria Police’s use of Ms Gobbo to inform on her clients as ‘reprehensible conduct’’, prompting a Royal Commission.
The Court of Appeal did not hold back either.
‘On the facts as conceded, Ms Gobbo’s conduct subverted Mr Orman’s right to a fair trial, and went to the very foundations of the system of criminal trial. There was, accordingly, a substantial miscarriage of justice,’ it stated.
Crown prosecutors conceded themselves that as a result of Ms Gobbo’s conduct on November 9, 2007, there was a substantial miscarriage of justice.
In a nutshell, Orman had no chance of a fair trial because his own lawyer had been working with the police against him.
He was cooked before he began.
Orman is not alone in his now justified beliefs that he had been greatly wronged by the justice system.
Nicola Gobbo worked as an informer for Victoria Police. Her involvement in snitching on her own clients has now seen one convicted killer walk free
Gangland killer Carl Williams always believed Nicola Gobbo was a rat. He wrote about it in letters. He was killed before he could learn he was right
Gangland killer Carl WIlliams himself wrote of his concerns about his lawyer going rogue and helping to put his mates away.
Williams died a bloody death in jail before he ever got a chance to see he was in fact right.
The Herald Sun reported that his killer, Matthew Johnson, had been visited by Ms Gobbo in the days leading up to his brutal murder.
Why she visited has become the subject of much speculation in recent weeks.
But while Williams will no longer get a chance of freedom, many of his former associates who were represented by Ms Gobbo, are in with a big shot.
Methamphetamine cook Zlate Cvetanovski will also roll what may have become a loaded dice at a bid for freedom.
The Court of Appeal is considering Mokbel’s application for leave to challenge his drug trafficking conviction on the basis of Ms Gobbo’s informer role, as well as applications by Karam and Cvetanovski.
In May, Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell said Victoria police must focus its investigations on Mokbel, Karam and Cvetanovski because their appeal cases bore directly on public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Pasquale Barbaro is among a rogue’s gallery of criminals lining up for release over the Lawyer X scandal
John Higgs, Rob Karam and Saviero Zirilli. Karam hopes to be cut loose amid the Lawyer X scandal
John Higgs is among those who believe he was sold out by his own lawyer – Nicole Gobbo. Her behavior has seen one convicted killer released from jail
Mokbel’s lawyer Richard Maidment QC revealed in addition to an appeal against conviction he was also considering a petition for mercy from the court.
Mokbel and Karam each have decades remaining on respective 30 and 35-year jail sentences for drug trafficking.
Cvetanovski has just over a year remaining on his 11-year sentence.
The royal commission has heard Mokbel had always suspected ‘mischief’ in his prosecution but how far that extended to Ms Gobbo was never clear.
Solicitor Constantine Karageorge said the key could be in mystery emails written by an alleged ASIO agent attached to the Australian embassy consular staff in Athens in 2008, while Mokbel was on the run.
Mokbel, a dual Australian-Lebanese citizen, knew he had been betrayed by someone close to him when he was arrested in Greece but was not sure by whom.
‘Tony suspected a leak but was not sure whether it was Gobbo or someone else he was close to, but he made admissions to her (Gobbo), admissions that may now not be admissible. She advised him to get out of the country and to go to Lebanon which he went to and had he stayed there perhaps he would not have been extradited back,’ he said.
Last year, Victorice Police chief Graham Ashton said the lawyer’s actions could impact on at least 20 convictions.
Back then, he said said people needed to understand the context of how the lawyer ended up becoming an informer.
‘Melbourne was in the grip of what now is know widely as the Gangland Wars. Over the proceeding 12 months numerous people had been murdered – some in very public locations and high profile criminals were vying for control of drug operations that were inflicting serious harm on the Victorian community,’ he said.
Frank Madafferi is among a host of criminals tied up with the tomato tins drug sting that hopes to be released over the Lawyer X scandal
The tomato tins used by the Mafia to import drugs into Australia
Faruk Orman was sentenced to 20 years in jail for a murder he claimed he was not involved in. The Court of Appeal in Victoria set him free on Thursday over the Lawyer X scandal
Ms Gobbo’s antics as a police informer were covered up for years by Victoria Police, who claimed they feared for her life.
‘Nothing is more important to Victoria Police than the protection of human life – that is and always will be the absolute number one priority. And so I make no apologies for taking the legal actions that Victoria Police has taken in this matter,’ Mr Ashton said.
In bringing on the royal commission, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews expressed his concern over the handling of the informer.
‘The integrity of the criminal justice system is paramount and all people charged with crimes are entitled to a fair trial, no matter who they are,’ Mr Andrews said.
Mr Andrews said that while these events took place many years ago, the public had the right to know that every part of the justice system acts fairly and lawfully at all times.