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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Gangster Tony Mokbel jailed for at least 22 years

01:48 |

Tony Mokbel

GANGSTER Drug lord Tony Mokbel arrives at the Supreme Court in Melbourne for sentencing over trafficking charges. Picture: Trevor Pinder

DRUG lord Tony Mokbel has been jailed for at least 22 years on a string of drug trafficking charges.

Mokbel will serve the time after pleading guilty to trafficking large commercial quantities of methylamphetamine and ecstasy, and inciting an undercover policeman to import ecstasy.

The thinned-down drug tsar - once dubbed "Fat Tony'' - showed no emotion in a Supreme Court dock yesterday as Justice Simon Whelan sentenced him to a maximum 30 years' jail with a 22 year minimum, minus time served.

The sentence related to three separate police operations, codenamed Magnum, Quills and Orbital.

"You conducted yourself as the manager," Justice Whelan said today.

"Ultimately you determined what was to be done (by your drug syndicate)."

Justice Whelan said Mokbel coordinated the criminal enterprise and demanded respect and loyalty from his associates.

"Drug dealing was your business. It was your area of expertise. It was your career."

Justice Whelan said things hasn't turned out as Mokbel had planned.

The judge said he took into account Mokbel's guilty pleas and health issues.

Today's sentence shuts the door on one of the longest-running sagas Victoria's criminal justice system has seen.

At Mokbel’s eventual plea hearing in May this year, prosecutor Peter Kidd, SC, called for a maximum sentence of 26-29 years with a minimum of 20-23.

"This is not the case of a man who had a lapse of judgment or momentarily fell into criminality,'' Mr Kidd said.

"It's quite the opposite.''

Mr Kidd said Mokbel ran his monster drug empire as if it were a legitimate business.

He described Mokbel, now 46, as "the principal'' who "orchestrated its operations''.

Mokbel had continued to run his syndicate, known as "The Company'', while a fugitive in Greece after skipping Australia in 2006 while facing cocaine smuggling charges.

Defence counsel Peter Faris, QC, told the plea hearing in May that while a minimum of 20-23 years had been accepted by the Crown on the back of a guilty plea, Mokbel had suffered a heart attack that shortened his life expectancy.

Justice Whelan noted a doctor's report that suggested Mokbel had a life expectancy of a further 24 years.

Mokbel suffered the mild heart attack in February and had a stent inserted into a blocked artery.

The pre-sentence hearing was told that Mokbel was now a reformed man with excellent prospects of rehabilitation.

"Dealing in drugs was definitely wrong,'' he had told a forensic psychologist while in jail.

"It causes damage to a lot of people, creates headaches and violence in people's lives.

"It puts good people in awful places. Kids in vulnerable positions.''

Today's sentence brings the police informer who dobbed in Mokbel one step closer to Victoria's first $1 million reward.

Codenamed 3030, the drug dealer turned on Mokbel and other members of The Company.

Information provided by 3030 resulted in multiple arrests of members of The Company, including Mokbel in Greece on June 5, 2007.

A decision on the reward is expected to come after Mokbel's 28-day appeal period ends.

Last minute wrangling

In the last of submissions made during the long-running drug case, Mokbel’s defence team this morning confirmed that an affidavit had been filed clarifying Mokbel’s “run-out” time from his Barwon Prison cell.

He gets exactly 6.46 hours per day, on average, the Supreme Court was told.

During discussions about sentencing considerations, Justice Simon Whelan described Mokbel’s large scale trafficking, the fact he absconded overseas and then continued to run his syndicate as a fugitive as “just unbelievable, really”.

“I can’t find any comparable case, can you?” he asked Crown prosecutor Peter Kidd, SC.

During discussion about comparable sentences, Justice Whelan described Mokbel as “the leader” who was at the “apex” of the drug operation.

Justice Whelan also flagged that he was going to fix a minimum term.

There was also brief discussion about state and federal sentencing regimes.

“It’s a minefield, Your Honour,” defence counsel Mark Gumbleton conceded.

How Mokbel finally faced justice

The man who sparked one of the nation's biggest manhunts, when he skipped bail in 2006 and went into hiding in Greece, walked into the Supreme Court this morning to learn his fate.

As one of the country's most prolific illicit drug makers, Mokbel was facing seven different trials over his vast amphetamine manufacturing empire when he struck a plea deal with prosecutors last year.

The deal saw all but three of the drug cases dropped in return for the former millionaire property developer's guilty pleas.

And the prosecution agreed that they'd ask for a minimum term in the 20-23 year range for the crimes, some of which carry maximum life terms and involved millions of dollars worth of drugs.

They had urged Justice Whelan to jail Mokbel, 46, for up to 29 years.

But the striking of the agreement in April last year did little to ease the court process.

Mokbel attempted to renege on the bargain and change his pleas late last year amid the affidavit controversy that swept Victorian law enforcement.

Police had routinely been simply signing affidavits used to get warrants to search properties or wire tap suspects.

They were required to swear an oath or affirmation as well as signing the documents.

Police involved in some of Mokbel's drug investigations were among those who failed to swear the oath. Legislation was rushed through Parliament to legitimize the wrongly sworn affidavits.

But Mokbel's bid to change his pleas had failed anyway, with Justice Whelan saying Mokbel had not shown it would be a miscarriage of justice if he were not allowed to contest offences he had already admitted to committing.

Justice Whelan was told that Mokbel may not live as long since his heart attack, and his lawyers urged the judge to give him a lesser term.

A psychologist also said Mokbel had seen the error of his ways and wanted to make amends, offering an apology to those he had hurt including the women in his life.

Those include former wife Carmel, mother of two of Mokbel's children; mother Lora; and ex-flame Danielle McGuire, who fled with him to Greece.

Their daughter Renate, named after Mokbel's sister-in-law Renee, was born while the couple hid from the law. .

She was jailed after putting up the $1 million bail surety that had to be forfeited when he disappeared. She couldn't pay, since the property she used as the surety wasn't hers.

Mokbel is already serving at least nine years for cocaine smuggling, and was acquitted by a jury of ordering the murder of gangland patriarch Lewis Moran. A charge over another underworld murder, that of Michael Marshall in South Yarra in 2003, was dropped.

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