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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

TONY Mokbel has struck a deal that may see him serve about 20 years in jail and taste freedom in his early 60s.

19:41 |

An extraordinary decade-long legal saga can finally be revealed after Mokbel - once the country's most wanted man - finally admitted to a monster drug empire he boasted netted at least $100 million.

It can also now be revealed the former friend and drug dealing partner of killer Carl Williams has been acquitted of the murder of Lewis Moran.

The case against him over the public shooting of kickboxer and hotdog vendor Michael Marshall was dropped before it reached a court room.

The drug kingpin, arrested in Greece in 2007 after fleeing Australia, wanted to fight a series of drug trafficking charges against him that, if convicted, could have seen him spend life in jail.But, after a saga which has already cost taxpayers an estimated $50 million in legal and investigation expenses, he cracked under overwhelming evidence of brazenly running a drug operation while on the run in Greece.

The deal, brokered between the Office of Public Prosecutions and Mokbel's lawyers over the past month, means prosecutors will recommend a minimum sentence of about 20 years to the underworld tsar, known as Fat Tony.

But Justice Simon Whelan will have final discretion when sentencing.

Mokbel's breakthrough admission to years of drug dealing also means the Herald Sun can reveal:

HIS taxpayer-funded legal aid team used Roy Morgan research to help get his trials held in secret. The poll found 83 per cent knew of him - and the vast majority (more than 80 per cent) believed he was a drug dealer.

THE MURDER charge against him over the Michael Marshall killing was dropped, despite prosecutors having sworn statements claiming he offered a $300,000 contract for the job. A hitman - who has been jailed for the shooting - told police Mokbel ordered the hit at a meeting with Williams, as revenge for the death of his old school chum Willie Thompson.

HE secretly met with Purana detectives at the height of the underworld war, telling them of his dislike for Mick Gatto. The rivalry stemmed from a meeting organised by Gatto where he stood by and watched bikies bash Mokbel.

ANOTHER witness claimed Mokbel was involved in the notorious 1996 St Kilda Rd drug squad break-in.

The deal for Mokbel, 46, could see him released in his early 60s.

A source close to underworld boss said Mokbel wanted to "live a life outside", but while in jail plans to study and take up programs offered.

Mokbel's extraordinary life as a cashed-up drug baron can be revealed after 24 suppression orders were yesterday lifted in the Supreme Court, allowing the Herald Sun to document his full criminal career.

A day earlier Mokbel plead guilty to three serious drug charges.

Mokbel was in a jovial mood before the pleas, talking and joking with a handful of male supporters, and even yawning at one stage.

Standing before Justice Simon Whelan, he admitted trafficking a large commercial quantity of methylamphetamine between July 2006 and June 2007.

He also pleaded guilty to a single count of trafficking a large commercial quantity of MDMA between February and August 2005, and to a Commonwealth charge of urging an undercover operative to import a commercial quantity of MDMA into Australia.

Crown prosecutor Peter Kidd told the court a string of other outstanding criminal charges against Mokbel would be discontinued with.

After the suppression orders were lifted yesterday, Det-Sgt Jim Coghlan - who has spent 10 years of his police career investigating and tracking Mokbel - said he was happy with the drug tsar's guilty pleas.

"It's a great result for the Purana Taskforce," Det-Sgt Coghlan told the Herald Sun.

At the time of Monday's guilty pleas, Mokbel was already serving a minimum nine-year sentence for smuggling cocaine into Australia.

He fled the country before he was sentenced for that crime, sparking a global search involving Victoria Police, the Australian Federal Police and Interpol.

A $1 million reward was put up in an effort to recapture him. Authorities nabbed him in Greece in June 2007 after 15 months on the run.

Defence barrister Peter Faris, QC, will conduct Mokbel's plea hearing for the three outstanding drug charges in June.

Mokbel will still be facing Victoria's longest sentence for drug trafficking.

Only one person in Victoria has received a total sentence of more than 20 years for trafficking since 2004.

The average is just seven years.

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