A Mafia figure regarded as Brisbane’s Tony Soprano has died aged 80.
Gerardo Bellino, who was jailed after the Fitzgerald Inquiry into crime and police corruption, ran a multimillion-dollar network of illegal brothels and gambling dens.
Known as Gerry, he was a member of the Bellino family of immigrants who came from Sicily to Australia in the 1940s when he was aged nine.
The colourful entrepreneur ended up owning several striptease clubs, a coffin-making business and worked as a property speculator.
Along with his business partner Vittorio ‘Vic’ Conte, he was jailed for almost seven years after being convicted of paying bribes worth $17,000 a month to police officers.
Bellino paid for protection of his vice rackets in the Valley to crooked police who pocketed hundreds from ‘Uncle Gerry’.
He was also linked to the growing of giant cannabis crops.
Bellino died on March 1 from cancer and will be farewelled at a service at Holy Spirit Church, New Farm next week.
Gerry Bellino, who ran a multimillion-dollar network of illegal brothels and gambling dens in Brisbane’s seamy Fortitude Valley has died aged 80
One of the illegal brothels run in the then seamy suburb of the Valley. which included Bellino’s Bubbles Bath House and other places of prostitution
Gerry Bellino (left) who once ran illegal casinos, brothels and strip clubs (right) in Brisbane’s seamy quarter The Valley has died from cancer aged 80
In the 1970s and 1980s, Bellino operated some of the best known venues in Fortitude Valley, including the World by Night, a notorious strip club with a brothel upstairs, The Beat and Bubbles Bath House, which operated an illegal gaming room.
Bubbles has since been re-opened at the same location as a legitimate business, Les Bubbles Steakhouse, with a basement bar to mark its ‘sordid history’.
Bellino earned huge amounts of cash from prostitution and gambling.
Fortitude Valley was a hotbed of illegal gambling, prostitution and crime which became the subject of the Fitzgerald inquiry into police corruption
Brothels and illegal casinos were clustered in the valley along a vice strip controlled by Mafia and protected by corrupt police
He was the brother of the more prominent Tony Bellino, a casino operator who denied knowing anything about illegal prostitution before his death last year.
Tony Bellino, who opened iconic hotspot The Roxy nightclub in Fortitude Valley in the 1980s, was named in the Fitzgerald Inquiry’s terms of reference but was never charged and denied any wrongdoing.
The inquiry was sparked by reporter Phil Dickie’s investigation into high-level police corruption, illegal prostitution and gambling in Brisbane in the late 1980s, and was followed by Chris Masters’ Four Corners program, The Moonlight State.
Gerry Bellino freely admitted to the inquiry that he owned buildings in which illegal gambling dens and Bubbles Bath House operated, but denied he was involved in prostitution.
The Fitzgerald inquiry, which began while Joh Bjelke-Petersen was the Queensland Premier, gave indemnities to witnesses, resulting in accusations of corruption being levelled against the state’s police commissioner, Terry Lewis.
Significant political damage caused Bjelke-Petersen to resign as premier, and when the commissioner Tony Fitzgerald filed his report in 1989, high-profile politicians were charged with crimes.
Bjelke-Petersen himself was tried for corruption and perjury, but a jury failed to agree on a verdict.
Sir Terence Lewis was charged with corruption, convicted and stripped of his knighthood.
In December 1989, the ALP won its first Queensland election since 1957, with Wayne Goss elected as leader.
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