Notorious drug lord Tony Mokbel put a $500,000 contract out to kill Melbourne identity Mick Gatto, a gangland snitch told police.
Melbourne’s gangland war started more than two decades ago and came to wider public attention throughout Australia when it was dramatised in the TV show Underbelly in 2008.
Mokbel, Gatto, Carl Williams and the Moran family became household names from being depicted in the series, and the killings, many of which remain unsolved, continue to offer new revelations.
The latest comes from a henchman working for Williams (who would later be beaten to death in jail) who in late 2003 was trying to broker a deal with organised crime detectives from the Purana Taskforce.
Drug lord Tony Mokbel (pictured) allegedly put out a $500,000 contract for a hit on Mick Gatto, according to a police transcript
Melbourne identity Mick Gatto (pictured) leaves the Heidleberg Magistrates Court on Monday, July 25, 2016. There was an alleged $500,000 contract hit taken out on him in 2003
A police statement by Shifty McGrath – a pseudonym – reveals further details of who had the most power and money in Melbourne’s darkest corners at the time, the Herald Sun reported.
McGrath, who was a getaway driver on at least two gangland hits, became the first snitch of the gangland war.
Asked by detectives Stuart Bateson and Boris Buick how much a targeted killing was worth, he replied: ‘For what? For Jason’s (Moran murder)? I don’t know… depends who organised it.
‘Like Mokbel’s got half a mil on f**kin’, ah, Mick Gatto,’ McGrath said. ‘Ya know, it depends who’s got the money and who wants to pay.’
The alleged $500,000 price on his head is 25 per cent higher than a previous figure claimed by Gatto himself.
In his autobiography I, Mick Gatto, he claims Bulgarian immigrant and drug tsar Nik Radev was offered $400,000 to kill him.
MELBOURNE’S GANGLAND KILLINGS
Thirty-six people were murdered in Melbourne’s gangland killings between January 1998 and August 2010.
Drugs, money and the control of the underworld were at the heart of the feud.
Underworld, a TV dramatisation, turned Tony Mokbel, Mick Gatto, Carl Williams and the Moran family into household names.
Many of the murders remain unsolved, but detectives from the Purana Taskforce believe Carl Williams was responsible for at least 10 of them.
Williams pleaded guilty on February 28, 2007 to three murders.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 35 years for ordering the murders of three people and conspiracy to murder a fourth.
On April 19, 2010, Williams was beaten to death in Barwon prison by another inmate, Matthew Charles Johnson.
Detective Senior Constable Buick asked McGrath about the underworld war that would eventually claim 36 lives.
‘Do you think there’ll be any more killings?’ he asked.
‘Oh, I’m guessing, oh, Mick Gatto, or ah, old man Moran. It’s just a couple. There’s probably more,’ McGrath replied.
Andrew ‘Benji’ Veniamin, who worked with Williams, was killed by Gatto, in self-defence, in an Italian restaurant in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton a few months later, on March 23, 2004.
Lewis Moran was shot dead eight days later, on the orders of Williams, in the Brunswick Club in the city.
His sons Mark and Jason Moran had already been killed in the gangland feud by then.
Gatto was associated with what was known as the Carlton Crew, whose members included the Moran brothers.
Williams was a known ally of Mokbel and was involved in a long-running dispute with the Moran brothers – a feud that led to many of the gangland killings of Melbourne the time.
When McGrath was asked what was behind all the murders, he said ‘All this has got to do with drugs.
‘Every f**king death you’ve probably got on your books is something to do with drugs,’ he said.
McGrath was also asked who was calling the shots in the criminal world.
‘Oh, you probably know as well as I do,’ he replied.
‘Who would you put at the top?’ Constable Buick asked.
‘There’s no such thing as like a top. They settle on who has the most money, equating to power, or more to the point, fear factor.
Carl Williams (pictured) leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in 2004. He was later beaten to death in prison
‘Well money’s usually the most influence and, ya know, f**king Mokbel’s got the most of that,’ McGrath said.
McGrath said Williams was not nearly as wealthy as Mokbel, saying his money was ‘minuscule’ compared to Mokbel’s. Money from drugs bought Mokbel more ‘lieutenants’, he said.
When he was pressed about who had most power, McGrath said: ‘Probably Mokbel. He’s got f**king 100 people hanging off him.’
Andrew ‘Benji’ Veniamin (pictured) was killed by Mick Gatto in self defence