Police smash tax fraud Syndicate-ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston embroiled in $165m fraud investigation


18/05/2017

More to follow with news a senior journo Steve Barrett being allegedly involved with a blackmail plot with a member of the conspiracy Daniel Rostankovski  who was allegedly aggrieved he was not getting his fair share…See down for more details

ATO deputy allegedly sought to seek a deal for son in $165 m tax fraud,,, Mr Cranston has been issued a future court attendance notice for the charge of abusing his position as a public official. He is due to appear in Sydney’s Central Local Court on June 13.

His son, Adam Cranston, 30, and his daughter, Lauren Anne Cranston, 24, have also been charged following an eight-month investigation, codenamed Operation Elbrus.

It’s alleged ATO deputy Michael Cranston accessed restricted information on an ATO audit for his son, but police do not believe he knew about his son’s alleged fraud syndicate.

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Leanne Close said the syndicate appeared to use the money to fund a “lavish lifestyle”.

Among the items seized under proceeds of crime were 25 motor vehicles, including luxury cars and racing cars, 12 motorbikes, 18 residential properties, two aircraft, $1 million from a safe deposit box, firearms, jewellery, bottles of Grange wine and artworks.

ATO Second Commissioner Andrew Mills said two other ATO officers were also being investigated internally for a potential code of conduct breaches. It’s believed they tried to look up information on the ATO’s audit at the behest of Michael Cranston….Robbo

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Police will allege the group had a lavish lifestyle and diverted taxpayer funds to buy planes, sports cars, jewellery, property, artwork and fine wines.

As part of the operation, officers have seized:

  • 25 motor vehicles
  • $15 million in bank accounts
  • 18 residential properties
  • 12 motorbikes
  • Two aircraft
  • Firearms
  • Jewellery
  • Artwork
  • Vintage wines
  • $1 million in a safe deposit box

Acting AFP deputy operations commissioner Leanne Close said the ATO got involved in the investigation when alleged evidence of fraud mounted.

 


Veteran Sydney journalist Steve Barrett allegedly blackmailed tax syndicate

By Rachel Olding

A veteran Sydney journalist allegedly blackmailed members of a $165 million tax fraud syndicate after conspirators in the group had a falling out, it can be revealed.

Explosive documents tendered in Central Local Court on Thursday state that well-known television journalist and former crime reporter Steve Barrett allegedly blackmailed two members of the syndicate during a meeting at the offices of Clamenz Lawyers on February 1st 2017

Eight people were arrested on Thursday over the alleged tax fraud syndicate including Adam and Laura Cranston, the son and daughter of Australian Taxation Office Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston.

Michael Cranston has also been issued a future court attendance notice for a charge of abusing his position as a public official.

The police documents reveal that one syndicate member, Daniel Rostankovski, turned on other conspirators and allegedly tried to extort money from them.

At the February 1 meeting, Mr Rostankovski and Mr Barrett allegedly threatened to expose the conspiracy in the media if money wasn’t handed over.

“Police allege … Rostankovski and Barrett attempted to blackmail the co-conspirators in relation to their involvement in the conspiracy,” the police documents state.

Mr Rostankovski allegedly demanded $5 million or Mr Barrett would expose the group in the media.

Mr Rostankovski felt like he had been deceived by the group as other members were receiving more money than him.

The group allegedly agreed to their demands if he didn’t go to the media, the police or the ATO. An agreement was signed that outlined such undertakings, the police documents reveal.

Mr Rostankovski, a 28-year-old from Waterloo, was granted strict bail in Central Local Court on Thursday. Mr Barrett has not been charged. He did not return Fairfax Media’s calls on Thursday.

Barrett, who previously worked for 60 Minutes, was a long-time employee as a producer in the Channel 7 newsroom but left the network in March 2016, before the alleged blackmail took place.

Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Leanne Close said the syndicate appeared to use the money to fund a “lavish lifestyle”.

Among the items seized under proceeds of crime were 25 motor vehicles, including luxury cars and racing cars, 12 motorbikes, 18 residential properties, two aircraft, $1 million from a safe deposit box, firearms, jewellery, bottles of Grange wine and artworks.

ATO Second Commissioner Andrew Mills said two other ATO officers were also being investigated internally for potential code of conduct breaches. It’s believed they tried to look up information on the ATO’s audit at the behest of Michael Cranston.

The announcement came after nearly 300 police officers on Wednesday carried out raids across Sydney, Wollongong and the Southern Highlands, arresting nine people.

Among those who appeared in court on Thursday are Mr Rostankovski, 28, from Waterloo; Jason Cornell Onley, 47, from Vaucluse; Daniel Hausman, 47, from Woollahra; Christopher James Guillan, 46, from Sutherland; Dev Menon, 33, from Wahroonga and Devyn Hammon, 24, from Balgownie.

Police will allege in court that the syndicate members ran a legitimate payroll company, Plutus Payroll, and accepted money from legitimate clients to process payroll on their behalf.

“This money was transferred to seven sub-contracted companies known as Tier 2 companies, which then made payroll payments to individual workers or clients,” the federal police said in a statement.

Tax office investigators, who helped the federal police during the investigation, estimate the amount of tax obligations not paid to the tax office to be $165 million.

Mr Mills described Michael Cranston as one of the organisation’s “long-serving senior officers” who had “quite an illustrious [career] up until this point”.

Mr Mills said he was confident the tax office’s systems had not been compromised nor breached and the accused employees were not able to obtain any information.

“The investigation has so far not revealed any evidence of actual intervention or influence on audit cases, or of money being refunded, or of tax liability being changed,” Mr Mills said.

“The information I have to date shows no compromise of the operations of our administration. Our systems, controls and procedures worked effectively and we have been able to successfully isolate and protect the investigation, working well with the Australian Federal Police over many months to build a picture of what has been happening.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull congratulated the federal police for the investigation and “taking the action that they have”.

 

ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston allegedly sought to cut deal for son Adam Cranston

By Nick McKenzie

Deputy ATO commissioner to be charged

Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Tax Office Michael Cranston allegedly sought to pressure colleagues to cut a deal with his son after learning he was the subject of a major tax fraud investigation, sources said.

Mr Cranston learnt of the investigation after his son, Adam Cranston, approached him and told his father that he believed his company was the subject of an ongoing inquiry.

Michael Cranston.Michael Cranston. Photo: Rob Homer

Michael Cranston allegedly subsequently approached a Tax Office assistant commissioner and raised the prospect that his son’s company was being targeted.

 

Michael Cranston allegedly simultaneously sought to downplay his son’s involvement in the alleged criminal scheme.

  • Two high-ranking Tax Office officials who spoke to Michael Cranston about the inquiry into his son have also been stood down, pending further investigation.
  • It is understood that Michael Cranston allegedly inquired as to whether a deal could be struck to resolve any probe.
  • The Tax Office sometimes resolves matters by agreeing to receive a payment from those accused of tax fraud.
  • Michael Cranston also allegedly sought to reach out to investigators involved in the multi-agency investigation but was unable to do so because the Australian Federal Police had warned them that such an approach might be likely.

One of nine people being arrested over a $165 million tax fraud investigation.

One of nine people being arrested over a $165 million tax fraud investigation.  Photo: AAP/Australian Federal Police

Adam Cranston was allegedly involved in the unlawful tax fraud scheme from the middle of 2016.

The scheme, which allowed the accused to make tens of millions of dollars in allegedly illegal profits, was started much earlier by another of the accused.

Police seized $1 million from a safe deposit box during Wednesday's raids.

Police seized $1 million from a safe deposit box during Wednesday’s raids. Photo: Australian Federal Police

Adam Cranston allegedly displayed unexplained wealth, including a collection of prestige cars.

But Michael Cranston is suspected to have been unaware that his son was the subject of the probe until Adam approached him.

Tax tsar’s son charged over alleged scam that netted $165 million

 

It comes after his son Adam was charged over his role in a $165 million tax scam.

The Daily Telegraph today revealed Cranston’s son, Adam was charged over his alleged role in a fraud syndicate that police claim stole more than $165 million — one of the biggest white-collar crimes in Australia’s history.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal Australian Federal Police yesterday arrested Adam Cranston at his Bondi flat in one of 27 raids on homes and businesses across Sydney.

Adam Cranston, son of ATO boss Michael Cranston, is arrested at his Bondi flat yesterday over his role a $165 million fraud syndicate. Picture: Police Media

Cranston was charged last night with conspiracy to ­defraud the commonwealth and is expected to face Central Local Court today.

It’s understood eight others were arrested and facing possible charges.

The 30-year-old Cranston is the son of ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston, but there is no suggestion Michael Cranston had any involvement in or ­knowledge of the criminal syndicate.

Adam Cranston on his wedding day to wife Elizabeth. There is no suggestion Elizabeth was involved in the alleged scam. Picture: Facebook

Sources close to the investigation claim Adam was a “co-conspirator” in a group that used an elaborate tax scam to fund a celebrity lifestyle that included prime Sydney real estate, boats — and even a racing car team.

“This investigation has ­uncovered high-level organised activity; it is complex (and) sophisticated,” the source last night told The Daily Telegraph.

Adam Cranston marries wife Elizabeth. There is no suggestion Elizabeth was involved in the alleged scam.

“I think it will take the police a long time to figure out exactly how much money (is involved).”

It is believed police will ­allege the fraud is one of the largest ever seen in Australia.

Investigators allege Sydney financial services firm SYNEP, of which Adam is co-chairman and managing ­director, was part of the ­operation.

ATO Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston
Adam Cranston is escorted from the scene at Bondi yesterday. Picture: Police Media.

Payroll contractor Plutus Payroll, controlled by SYNEP, was the centrepiece of the ­alleged hustle.

Police will claim it would allegedly funnel wage payments through a series of “second tier” companies. who then paid the ATO only a fraction of the required income tax.

The remaining withheld tax would then allegedly flow into the pockets of syndicate operators.

The scammers believed they had struck a sweet spot where each individual fraud was too small to prompt ­action from the ATO.

One source said it was “like saying to your schoolteacher, ‘I’ve done most of my homework, I’ll bring the rest next week’.”

The net tightened when both the AFP and ATO ­noticed alleged discrepancies in parallel investigations.

Police escort Adam Cranston from the scene yesterday. Picture: Police Media

The sum of the frauds is understood to be more than $165 million, with the extent of Cranston’s own alleged profits expected to be revealed in court.

Investigators said their probe focused on a 12-month snapshot of the group’s alleged activities.

Sources also allege the scheme had another sinister angle.

How the scam was carried out

Police will claim the syndicate would pay struggling people a regular fee so they could set up the second tier companies in their names. However, the syndicate had total control of the companies.

Plutus Payroll hit the headlines earlier this month when the ATO froze its bank ­accounts over unpaid tax debts, meaning its clients’ staff could not be paid.

Police examine a vehicle at Adam Cranston’s Bondi flat yesterday. Picture: Police Media

In a statement earlier this month, Plutus apologised to its customers “continuing ­distress caused by our inability to process your pay since 27 April”.

“Our dispute is with the Australian Taxation Office who believe that Plutus owes the ATO money,” the statement said.

“Acting in a draconian and unfair manner, the ATO froze Plutus’ bank accounts on 27 April without prior warning or any consultation.

“We received no notice of intention to audit, no complaint and no other advance warning of noncompliance from the ATO.

 

“When the ATO acted, without notice, they froze our bank accounts and we became unable to pay our contractors the money owed to them.”

On May 10, the company announced the ATO had ­allowed the release of the money.

With more than 35 years at ATO, Michael Cranston has spearheaded many public campaigns to catch tax cheats.

“I am responsible for ­increasing compliance and willing participation in our tax and super system,” one of his social media accounts states.

“I recently chaired the OECD Task Force on Tax Crimes.”

The ATO last night ­refused to comment on the­ ­investigation.

And Michael Cranston did not respond to questions put to him through the ATO.

The ATO said it “will not comment on ongoing investigations at this time”.

“Due to privacy considerations the ATO is unable to comment on individual ­employees,” it said.

A CASE OF LIVE FAST AND FRY YOUNG

POLICE claim assets linked to an alleged $165 million tax fraud case include sports cars, expensive properties, boats and even a race team.

Cars were a particular passion for one of the alleged “co-conspirators” of the crime. Adam Cranston loved them so much there’s even a wedding day photo of the now 30-year-old with his wife and a slick race car.

There is no suggestion Cranston’s wife had any knowledge of or involvement in the alleged fraud.

A source said that among the property seized by police is an orange and blue Ford GT in Cranston’s ­possession.

Cranston started a race car team last year. And he named it after the ­financial services firm now at the centre of the alleged crime, SYNEP. The team competed in the Australian Prototype Series and in February celebrated a podium finish at Mount Panorama.


ATO official Michael Cranston facing charges over son’s alleged 65m fraud – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

ATO official Michael Cranston facing charges over son’s alleged $165m fraud

18/03/17 Updated 8 minutes ago

One of Australia’s most senior tax officials has been embroiled in a major fraud investigation following the arrest of his son, which allegedly involved $165 million being stolen from the Commonwealth.

Deputy tax commissioner Michael Cranston has been issued with a court attendance notice, while his son, Adam Cranston, was arrested in Sydney yesterday as part of an Australian Federal Police sting.

Michael Cranston will be charged with abusing his position as a public official relating to the fraud, although he is not believed to be a conspirator.

Adam Cranston, 30, was arrested at his flat in the affluent beach suburb of Bondi during raids yesterday and has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the Commonwealth.

At a press conference in Sydney today, officials said Michael Cranston could have been unwittingly involved in his son’s alleged crimes.

In all, nine people were arrested in Sydney yesterday as the AFP carried out 28 raids.

At a press conference today, the AFP alleged the group used “lavish lifestyles” to help hide the funds, including 25 motor vehicles, $15 million in cash, 18 residential properties and two aircraft.

Adam Cranston will face Central Local Court in Sydney later today.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said the arrests served as a warning.

“This is a major government crackdown and what the events today with this major fraud bust … demonstrates is that if you are a crook and you are seeking to defraud the taxpayer, we will find you,” he said.

“We will track you down. We will make sure you are brought to justice.”

The ABC understands Michael Cranston has been employed by the ATO for more than three decades and is involved in the organisation’s private groups and high wealth segment.

Part of his biography on his LinkedIn account reads: “My personal philosophy is that the tax system belongs to all Australians and we all need to work closely together to ensure that it is administered fairly, efficiently and causes the least pain for all that participate.”

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Benjamin Moorhouse filmed more than 200 people in Sydney public toilets, court told


Man secretly filmed more than 200 people in Sydney public toilets, court told

 A man secretly filmed more than 200 people, including a girl and boy, in Sydney public toilets for his own “sexual gratification,” a court has been told.

Benjamin Moorhouse allegedly placed secret cameras under the sink of toilets at Parramatta and North Sydney train stations, and at a disabled toilet at Westfield Parramatta shopping centre, in February and March.

The 40-year-old, who was arrested on March 22, appeared at Parramatta Local Court on Wednesday, where his lawyer indicated he would plead guilty to all charges.

Moorhouse is charged with five counts of filming a person in a private act for the purpose of “sexual arousal or sexual gratification”.

Two of those charges are aggravated because the alleged victims, a boy and a girl, were under 16.

Moorhouse is also charged with three counts of installing a device to film people without consent.

It is further alleged Moorhouse “engaged in a private act” without the consent of the victims.

The 40-year-old, who was dressed in a suit when he appeared before a magistrate on Wednesday, later ran from the court complex wearing a hooded jumper, jeans and sunglasses.

 

One of the devices police allege was used for the filmingOne of the devices police allege was used for the filming Photo: NSW Police

Police say they found Moorhouse with a camera similar to those uncovered at the stations when they arrested him outside his Parramatta home a month ago.

Almost 100 people were filmed at a Parramatta train station toilet between February 13 and 14, while another 23 were filmed on the morning of February 10 in a toilet at North Sydney station, according to court documents.

The cameras were found by train staff.

About 100 people were also allegedly filmed in a Westfield Parramatta disabled toilet between March 17 and 20.

Moorhouse’s bail was continued until his next court appearance on May 31.

AAP


 

Drug ring raids net historic $360m cocaine haul


abc.net.au

Drug ring raids net historic $360m cocaine haul

By Siobhan Fogarty

Updated 18 minutes ago

Thu 29 Dec 2016, 12:17pm

A former NRL player and a Bondi businessman have been linked to a drug ring after New South Wales Police recorded the biggest cocaine haul in Australia’s history.

Key points:

  • 1.1 tonnes of cocaine worth $360 million seized by AFP and NSW police
  • Two seizures of cocaine make the biggest haul of the drug in Australian history
  • 15 men arrested including a former NRL player and a Bondi businessman

The joint strike force between Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Police drug squad arrested 15 men and seized about $360 million worth of cocaine.

Former Roosters player John Tobin is one of the accused smugglers, along with Bondi businessman Darren Mohr.

The criminal syndicate was allegedly using a trawler based at the Sydney Fish Market to meet a “mother ship” from South America to bring drugs into the country.

About 500 kilograms of the drug was seized on Christmas Day at Brooklyn on the central coast of New South Wales.

Police allege 600 kilograms was seized in Tahiti and 32 kilograms of heroin was found in Fiji with both loads destined for the market in Australia.

Acting Assistant Commissioner, Chris Sheehan, said the police operation had been running for almost three years and escalated with the arrests over the Christmas period.

“The criminal syndicate we have dismantled over the last few days was a robust, resilient and determined syndicate,” he said.

“This is the largest cocaine seizure we have had in Australia.

“It posed an ongoing and continued threat to the Australian community and without the work of our police, would still be in action today.”

Tip-off from community led to bust

Assistant Police Commissioner, Mark Jenkins said a member of the community gave them a tip-off two and a half years ago that led to the cocaine haul.

“As a result, over one tonne of drugs has been prevented from reaching the streets of New South Wales and harming the community,” he said.

“That small piece of information has resulted in 15 arrests and a large seizure of drugs.”

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

Video: Police seized 500kg worth of cocaine in NSW (ABC News)

Officers allege the group of men, aged from 29 to 63, are involved in the Australian criminal syndicate responsible for the attempted imports.

They have been charged with serious drug importation offences and eleven of the 15 men have appeared before Parramatta Local Court and were refused bail.

A 49-year-old man and a 63-year-old man are due to appear before Central Local Court today.

Two other men, a 33-year-old and 39-year-old are also expected to front Nowra Local Court today after they were arrested at Ulladulla yesterday.

Police said they were confident all alleged members of the criminal syndicate were in custody.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

Video: Arrests made after $360m worth of cocaine seized (ABC News)

Topics: crime, law-crime-and-justice, drug-offences, nsw

First posted about 4 hours agoThu 29 Dec 2016, 7:48am


smh.com.au

Police smash cocaine ring at Sydney Fish Market in Christmas Day raid

By Rachel Olding, Latika Bourke, Rachel Browne

A former rugby league first grade player, a Bondi entrepreneur and a several fishermen are among 15 men arrested on Christmas Day in a multimillion-dollar cocaine ring bust.

Police will allege the men were imported more than a tonne of cocaine via the iconic Sydney Fish Market and other NSW ports.

Australian Federal Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Chris Sheehan described the alleged syndicate as “robust, resilient and determined”.

He told a packed Sydney press conference that the 15 arrested men were “determined to exploit some of the most vulnerable members of the community.”

The seizure of 500kg of cocaine in Sydney, 600kg of the drug in Tahiti and 32kg of heroin in Fiji make it the largest drug bust of its kind in Australia.

NSW Police State Crime Commander Mark Jenkins said all the drugs originated in South America before being transferred across the South Pacific by ship.

Several of the men were arrested on Christmas Day as they docked a shipping vessel named Dalrymple at the Sydney Fish Markets.

It’s alleged the boat was used to ferry drugs between NSW ports and a larger ship stationed out at sea that held drugs smuggled from Chile.

Operation Okesi, comprising officers from NSW Police, Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force, started over two-and-a-half-years after police received a “thread” of information.

Since then, five alleged importations by the sophisticated syndicate have been thwarted.

It includes the seizure of 32 kilograms of heroin by authorities in Fiji in December 2014 and the seizure of 606 kilograms of cocaine by authorities in Tahiti in March.

Officers then observed the Dalrymple depart the Sydney Fish Markets on December 3 and travel to the Central Coast. The vessel was monitored by Maritime Border Command and the NSW Police’s Marine Area Command.

On Christmas night, officers watched the crew launch a small one-man dinghy which allegedly travelled to Parlsey Bay at Brooklyn on the NSW Central Coast and met with two other men.

All three were arrested and about 500 kilograms of cocaine was seized from the dinghy.

Several other men were arrested on board the Dalrymple vessel as it docked at Sydney Fish Market on Christmas night.

A police source told Fairfax Media the syndicate thought they could take advantage of the festive season by striking on Christmas Day.

Authorities valued the total amount of cocaine seized at $360 million.

Among the men arrested is former Eastern Suburbs Roosters player John Roland Boyd Tobin, who played 125 matches as lock forward in the 1980s.

Bondi entrepreneur Darren John Mohr was also arrested. He lists his occupation as the owner Martini Motors and is also the former owner of the Bondi Rescue HQ cafe.

His Instagram profile shows a love of Harley Davidson motorbikes, Rolls Royce cars and being shirtless.

Police also arrested Reuben John Dawe, who lists his occupation as a maritime worker and commercial fisherman Joseph Pirrello, 63.

Other man arrested in the sting include Simon Peter Spero, 56, Graham Toa Toa, 42, Stuart Ayrton, 54, Jonathan Cooper, 29, Richard Lipton, 37, Frank D’Agostino, 54, and Benjamin Sara, 31.

They were all refused bail in Parramatta Bail Court on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Two other men, extradited from Tasmania and Queensland, will appear in Parramatta Bail Court on Thursday as well as two men arrested in the Nowra area.

Footage released by police show multiple men being arrested in the dark from on-board the Dalrymple fishing vessel.

One of the men shown with his hands tied behind his back is wearing only a pair of boxer shorts covered in cartoon pictures of crocodiles.

“This operation has been running for more than two-and-a-half years and culminated over the Christmas period,” a police statement reads.

The men were aged between 29 and 63 years old.  Police are due to address the media at 11am on Thursday.

Eddie Obeid: The rise, reign and fall of NSW’s most notorious political powerbroker


Update 1.28pm 15/12/16

‘Bail is refused’

“I direct Mr Obeid be taken down [into the cells],” Justice Beech-Jones says.

After loosening his tie and handing his watch to his lawyers, Obeid was led from the dock in court five in the historic Darlinghurst Supreme Court by corrective services officers.

Justice Beech-Jones says Obeid’s lawyers have not established “exceptional circumstances” exist to warrant a grant of bail pending his appeal against conviction and sentence.

“I do not accept Mr Obeid’s appeal rises any higher than being reasonably arguable,” he says of the merits of the foreshadowed appeal.


Eddie Obeid to be stripped of parliamentary pension as Baird government reacts to his sentencing

  • Sean Nicholls

Former Labor minister Eddie Obeid is set to be stripped of his annual $120,000 parliamentary pension following his sentencing for wilful misconduct in public office.

On Thursday, Obeid was sentenced to a maximum 5 years in jail with a non parole period of three years.

Shortly afterwards, Premier Mike Baird announced MPs convicted of a serious offence during their time in office will lose their parliamentary pension, even if they quit before charges are laid.

The announcement means Obeid is set to be stripped of his lifetime annual pension worth more than $120,000 a year.

Presently MPs convicted of a serious offence – punishable by at least five years imprisonment – can keep their pensions if they are not charged while in office.

“The crimes of Eddie Obeid and his cronies are the most serious instance of official corruption we have seen in our lifetimes,” Mr Baird said.

“Regardless of political affiliation, any MP who commits a serious offence while in office should face the consequences, and should not be shielded simply because they resign before being charged.

“We will work cooperatively with the Opposition and cross-bench MPs over the summer recess to bring forward amendments that repair this glaring anomaly, and we will make sure they capture Obeid and any others who find themselves in his situation.”

The change will require an amendment to legislation to be put to parliament early next year.

The Baird government has also indicated it will claw back the estimated $280,000 legal assistance he was given for this particular ICAC inquiry.

MORE TO COME

Click here to read full sentencing judgement


Eddie Obeid sentenced for Circular Quay corruption

Michaela Whitbourn

‘Sanctity of jury verdict’

Justice Beech-Jones says the “public interest upholding the sanctity of the jury’s verdict” is a factor weighing against granting bail.

The corrupt former Labor kingpin’s lawyers have also suggested he should be granted bail because he is facing a committal hearing on other corruption charges next year.

The Supreme Court judge says it can be accepted it will be harder for Obeid to prepare for that case while in jail.

The judge decides

Justice Robert Beech-Jones is now delivering his decision on whether Obeid should be granted bail. It’s a busy morning for the Supreme Court judge.

Justice Robert Beech-Jones delivers his decision in the Eddie Obeid sentencing.
Justice Robert Beech-Jones delivers his decision in the Eddie Obeid sentencing.  

The final, final point

It feels like Obeid’s barrister is holding out the promise of a “final” point but there is always another one to be made.

Guy Reynolds, SC, says Obeid will appeal not only his conviction but his sentence.

And yes, he still wants “a release order or bail” pending that appeal. If he doesn’t get it from Justice Beech-Jones he is likely to ask the Court of Criminal Appeal to decide on that point too.

‘Unreasonable verdict’

Obeid’s barrister Guy Reynolds, SC, says he is moving onto his “final” point.

Not only does Reynolds say the jury was misdirected by Justice Beech-Jones, he says the jury’s verdict was “unreasonable and cannot be supported by the evidence”.

It’s good to cover all one’s bases.

Reynolds says he is “grateful” to the court for allowing him to set out the grounds of appeal, as “aggravating” as it may be.

He reiterates he is seeking bail for his 73-year-old client pending an appeal.

Eddie Obeid outside court this morning.
Eddie Obeid outside court this morning. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Still here

Oh yes, we’re still here in court. Obeid’s barrister Guy Reynolds, SC, is fleshing out his submission there has been a miscarriage of justice.

Obeid has no intention of going to jail and his legal team wants Justice Beech-Jones to grant bail today.

Get comfortable. This could be a while.

Back to top

Obeid to be stripped of pension

The Herald‘s state political editor Sean Nicholls has the exclusive: the Baird government will strip Obeid of his annual $120,000 parliamentary pension following his jail sentence for misconduct in public office.

Read the full story here.

Someone's having a good day, and it ain't Eddie.
Someone’s having a good day, and it ain’t Eddie. Photo: James Alcock

No love lost

Former Labor premier Kristina Keneally is out of the blocks early to offer her views on Obeid’s jail sentence. She’s not mincing her words.

It ain’t over

Usually when a person is sent to prison, they are taken away from the courtroom almost immediately by corrective services.

Not so in the Obeid case. His lawyer, Guy Reynolds, SC, is in full flight about the alleged miscarriage of justice suffered by his client. He wants bail.

An impassive Obeid remains in the dock as Reynolds and Justice Beech-Jones engage in a robust discussion about the latter’s summing up to the jury.

What next

An appeal is already in the offing but for the time being Obeid is going to jail for a maximum of five years, with no possibility of release for three years.

What next? Glad you asked. Obeid and his entrepreneurial middle son, Moses, have been charged over a separate deal exposed at ICAC, relating to the very fortuitous creation of a coal mining tenement over their rural property in the Bylong Valley near Mudgee.

The deal netted the Obeid family $30 million, ICAC heard.The men will face a three-week committal hearing starting on May 29 to test the strength of the prosecution’s case and determine if they should stand trial.

Moses Obeid outside the Supreme Court earlier this year.
Moses Obeid outside the Supreme Court earlier this year. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Appeal, anyone?

Obeid’s barrister, Guy Reynolds, SC, has leapt to his feet and, as foreshadowed, is already flagging an appeal.

He says there has been a “miscarriage of justice” and they will need to trot off to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

“The prospects of Mr Obeid succeeding … on appeal are extremely high,” Reynolds says.

Back to top

Jail only appropriate penalty

Obeid will go to jail, Justice Beech-Jones says.

“Given the nature of the offending and notwithstanding Mr Obeid’s personal circumstances, I am satisfied that, having considered all possible alternatives, no penalty other than imprisonment is appropriate,” he says.

“Mr Obeid, will you please stand up.”

Five years

Justice Beech-Jones has sentenced Obeid to a maximum of 5 years in jail, with a three-year non parole period.

‘Not an opinion poll’

This is it. “Conclusion,” Justice Beech-Jones says clearly.

He says sentencing is not conducted via “opinion polls”.

“If Mr Obeid had not willfully abused his position as a parliamentarian, then his life and career would be a testament to the values of hard work, family and public service. Instead, his time in public life has produced a very different legacy.”

Life expectancy

And we are inching closer. Justice Beech-Jones says a jail sentence should not be reduced because it would consume “most of an offender’s remaining life expectancy”.

Medical conditions

The court hears Obeid suffers from a litany of medical conditions. He had a stroke earlier this year, has had type two diabetes “for years”, has high blood pressure and colonic polyps.

He also tripped on a coffee table earlier this year and was taken to hospital.

However, the conditions are “stable and controlled”, according to medical evidence.

But expert evidence tendered by Obeid’s legal team says it is “unlikely that … Obeid would receive appropriate medical treatment in custody if he was incarcerated”.

Justice Beech-Jones says he accepts Obeid would receive “a superior level of care in the community” but he is satisfied “he would receive an adequate level of care” in jail.

Eddie Obeid outside court this morning.
Eddie Obeid outside court this morning. Photo: Daniel Munoz

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All in the family

Justice Beech-Jones says the evidence suggests the Obeid family is “exceptionally close” and would be hit hard by the jailing of the patriarch.

But he notes it was Obeid’s decision to prioritise the interest of his family above his duty to the public that led to his offending.

A parliamentarian cannot use their position to “afford generosity” to their family or associates, he says.

‘Mitigating factor’

Obeid enlisted 55 character witnesses in his fight to avoid jail. Justice Beech-Jones says they are evidence of “prior good character”, which is a “mitigating factor” in sentencing.

However, he says in cases of corruption the “need for deterrence is particularly strong” and the references will be “afforded less weight”.

‘Deliberate breach of trust’

Justice Beech-Jones is getting closer to delivering those final words: to jail or not to jail.

He says the essence of the offence of misconduct in public office is a “deliberate breach of trust”.

The seniority of the public official is relevant, along with the nature of the breach.

The Supreme Court judge is surveying relevant cases, and says they demonstrate the “onerous duty” imposed upon parliamentarians and ministers.

Eddie Obeid outside court this morning.
Eddie Obeid outside court this morning. Photo: Daniel Munoz

The penalty

Now we’re getting down to it. Justice Beech-Jones is setting out the principles for sentencing Eddie Obeid.

In NSW the offence of misconduct in public office is not codified in an act of Parliament – it is simply part of the common law (law made by judges).

That means the maximum penalty has not been set out in legislation and is technically “at large”, meaning life.

But in other states, where the offence has been codified, the maximum penalty is about seven years. This is relevant but the court is not “limited” by that, Justice Beech-Jones says.

He says there is “no difference in substance” between a politician receiving a bribe to advance someone else’s interest and using their position to line their own pockets.

‘Makes no difference’

It makes no difference to Obeid’s criminality whether he was acting to advance his own financial interests or those of his family, Justice Beech-Jones said


Eddie Obeid: The rise, reign and recession of NSW’s most notorious political powerbroker

Analysis

12.20pm 15/12/2016

The sentencing of former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid is a day of reckoning for a man who once wielded his influence to build and destroy the careers of premiers and MPs in New South Wales.

Key points:

  • Eddie Obeid was renowned as a fearsome Labor kingmaker
  • His business and political empires became entwined
  • An ICAC finding of corruption lead to his prosecution

Obeid has been sentenced to five years’ jail, with a minimum of three years, for misconduct in a public office in relation to his family’s secret business dealings at Circular Quay.

Edward Moses Obeid was born in a village in northern Lebanon in 1943, and after moving to Australia as a child, worked as a cab driver and at local Arabic-language newspaper El Telegraph.

Within a few years he was running that newspaper, and was recruited by Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson to join the party in 1972.

ABC investigative journalist Marion Wilkinson’s book The Fixer describes how Obeid was soon providing invaluable advice to Richardson on how to politically organise ethnic communities.

It was Mr Richardson who gave Obeid the necessary backing to see him elected to the NSW Upper House in 1991, and he rose through the ranks to become the minister for fisheries and mineral resources from 1999 to 2003.

But it was his creation and control of the so-called Terrigals sub-faction of the Labor Right that would go on to dominate NSW Labor for the better part of two decades.

One king to rule them all

The sub-faction was formed, with Obeid its undisputed king, at a now infamous meeting at his beach house in Terrigal in 1992.

It went on to use its numbers relentlessly to fundraise, control pre-selections, guide policy and elevate chosen MPs to the frontbench.

At the height of its powers, the Terrigals sub-faction was instrumental in installing and removing a series of premiers — namely Morris Iemma, Nathan Rees and Kristina Keneally.

Mr Iemma has said his premiership became “untenable” because he could not convince the Terrigals to approve his preferred ministerial reshuffle.

Mr Rees was rolled after standing up to the sub-faction by sacking Ian Macdonald and Joe Tripodi from the ministry.

Just before he was knifed, Mr Rees famously said: “should I not be Premier by the end of the day, let there be no doubt in the community’s mind, no doubt, that any challenger will be a puppet of Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi.”

How the empire unravelled

But Obeid’s influence was broader than the parliamentary caucus.

His diary entries from 2007 to 2009, tendered to Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hearings, show a revolving door of developers, union bosses and business figures queuing up to seek appointments with him.

With a string of business and property interests in both Australia and Lebanon, Obeid was already wealthy when he entered Parliament and he continued to build both his financial and political empires while an MP.

And it was the mixing of his political and business ties which eventually led to him being convicted on June 28 this year of misconduct in a public office.

Obeid was found to have lobbied the then-deputy chief executive of the State Maritime Authority, Steve Dunn, over Circular Quay leases — without revealing that his family secretly owned a series of harbourside cafes in the Quay.

The Crown said Obeid knew Mr Dunn from when he had been fisheries minister, and argued that he misused his position as an Upper House MP to “dupe” Mr Dunn into believing he was acting on behalf of constituents.

The court found he was in fact trying to stop a competitive tender process for the leases to financially benefit his own family.

Prosecution not to be scoffed at

The prosecution stemmed from a corrupt conduct finding by the ICAC.

In his findings in the ICAC inquiry into the Circular Quay leases, assistant commissioner Anthony Whealy described the former MP’s actions as demonstrating “the moral vacuum at the core of his political being”.

When the ICAC first handed down its finding, Obeid scoffed that he believed there was “less than a one per cent chance” that he would be prosecuted as a result.

Even when charged, he still said he had “no concerns whatsoever” and was “very confident” he would not be convicted because he was innocent.

The court found otherwise.

Labor has done its best to exorcise itself of Obeid, ending his influence and calling for the courts to throw the full force of the law at him.

But no matter how hard it may try, Obeid’s fingerprints will forever remain all over a chapter of its political history in NSW.

Sydney crime figure Pasquale Barbaro shot dead, Joe Antoun’s death caught on video


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Nine people have been charged following the bloody execution of crime figure Pasquale Barbaro, after a series of police raids in Sydney.

Tuesday’s co-ordinated sting unfolded just after midday when heavily armed officers raided more than a dozen properties including four at Sydney’s Olympic Park.

A total of 13 search warrants were executed and nine men aged from 18-29 were charged.

“All those charged with substantive murder were charged in relation to Pasquale Barbaro,” Assistant Commissioner Mark Jenkins told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

Barbaro was left for dead on a Sydney pavement. Image: Instagram
Nine people have now been charged over the 35-year-old’s death. Image: 7 News
Photo: NSW Police

Barbaro, 35, was shot dead on an Earlwood footpath two weeks ago.

Four of the nine men are facing murder charges and will appear in Sydney courts on Wednesday.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione launched Strike Force Osprey less than two weeks ago after a spate of bloody executions of notorious crime figures on Sydney’s streets.

“There is no end game. We will continue to target these individuals through methodical investigations and disruption strategies. There will be ongoing arrests. We will be protecting the State of NSW. We will be not tolerating any individual who has a total disregard for the community of this state and its laws,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Frank Mennilli said on Wednesday.

The other five men are facing criminal group charges and have court dates for December and January.

Photo: NSW Police
Photo: NSW Police
Photo: NSW Police

Officers from Strike Force Osprey worked with officers from Strike Force Raptor, which was set up in November last year investigating the activities of the Burwood Chapter of the Rebels Outlaw Motorcycle Gang.

Both forces were involved in Tuesday’s raids.

During the raid more than 40 mobile phones, 11 cars, a safe, cash, stolen NSW Police ID was seized and will now be examined by specialist forensic accountants from the Fraud and Cybercrime Squad.

Police from Strike Force Raptor also seized 20 long arms, 23 hand guns, 15 prohibited weapons, including ballistic vests and masks, silencers, a stun gun, and a homemade pipe gun; ammunition, methylamphetamine, and ecstasy, police said on Wednesday.

With eight shooting deaths over the past 17 months in Sydney, police have vowed to stamp out gangland warfare.

Just weeks before Mafia figure Barbaro was shot in Earlwood as he was getting into his Mercedes on November 14, hitman Hamad Assaad, 29, was shot in Georges Hall on October 25.

Pasquale Barbaro pictured with Brothers for Life leader Farhad Qaumi. Source: 7 News
The shooting scene. Source: 7 News

In April, gangland kingpin and convicted killer Walid Ahmad, 40, was killed in a spray of bullets on the rooftop car park of Bankstown Central shopping centre.

His murder is believed to be in retaliation for the fatal shooting of Safwan Charbaji outside a Condell Park panel beater several weeks earlier.

The month before that Michael Davey was shot dead in a driveway in a drive-by shooting in Kingswood. Believed to be a member of the Rebels motorcycle gang, Davey had escaped injury during a shooting at a shopping centre the previous year.

Police hunt for gangland killer

Police forensice teams establish a crime scene after Pasquale Barbar (inset) was killed. Picture: Bill Hearne.

Police forensics teams establish a crime scene after Pasquale Barbar (inset) was killed. Picture: Bill Hearne.

Police from the NSW Public Order and Riot squad arrive at the scene this morning. Picture: AAP

Police from the NSW Public Order and Riot squad arrive at the scene this morning. Picture: AAP

The crime scene in Earlwood. Picture: Bill Hearne.

The crime scene in Earlwood. Picture: Bill Hearne.

Pasquale Barbaro.

Pasquale Barbaro.


Who was Pasquale Barbaro?

Updated about 7 hours ago

Pasquale Timothy Barbaro was a notorious Sydney crime figure and part of a family with known links to the Calabrian mafia, from Italy.

The 35-year-old’s murder last night at Earlwood in Sydney’s inner west was one of several targeted shootings in Sydney this year.

The Barbaro family is well known to police and the criminal underworld.

His grandfather, who was also named Pasquale Barbaro, was murdered in a gangland hit in Brisbane in 1990 after turning police informant.

A cousin — another Pasquale Barbaro — was murdered in a hit in Melbourne in 2003 alongside notorious crime figure Jason Moran.

His uncle, yet another Pasquale Barbaro, is currently serving a 30-year sentence over a massive ecstasy bust — the world’s biggest — discovered in Melbourne in 2007.

Pasquale Timothy Barbaro — killed last night in Earlwood — survived a targeted shooting in Leichhardt in November last year.

Why was he targeted?

There are a number of theories.

Pasquale Timothy Barbaro was due to face the Sydney District Court in December over the production of the drug ice (crystal methamphetamine).

Crime journalist Keith Moor says there are suspicions Mr Barbaro may have been a police informant.

“The suspicion is he was probably killed for breaking the code of ‘omerta’ which is the code of silence,” Mr Moor said.

“The suggestion I’m getting is the dead Pasquale Barbaro was telling tales about the operations of the Calabrian mafia — as was his grandfather way back in the 1990’s.”

Equally, Mr Moor said the killing could be because of something unrelated to gang crime.

“He was involved in a number of criminal offences [including] drugs,” Mr Moor said.

“He’s obviously made some enemies [and there have been] attempts on his life in the past.

“It could boil down to something as simple as a domestic — there have been a number of Calabrian crime figures murdered because they’ve left their wives or slept with the wrong person,” he said.

One thing is clear according to NSW Police Superintendent David Johnson: Mr Barbaro was “clearly the intended victim” of last night’s Earlwood shooting.

Links to other shootings

There was a failed hit on Pasquale Timothy Barbaro‘s life in November last year.

Hamad Assaad, who was shot dead at his Georges Hall home just two weeks ago, was one of the major suspects in that attempted hit.

The Assaad shooting on October 25 has links to another targeted shooting in Bankstown in May.

Superintendent David Johnson said at a press conference today that police can’t comment on whether the murders are related.

“I can’t comment on the homicide investigations or strike forces as they are set up,” Mr Johnson said.

“I can’t say whether these matters are related because I don’t know the answer to that.”

The Calabrian Mafia in Australia

Crime journalist Keith Moor said the Barbaro family’s crime history stretches back decades in Australia.

“They’re going back way before the 1977 murder of Donald Mackay in Griffith,” Mr Moor said.

“The dead Barbaro from Sydney overnight… was literally born into the Calabrian mafia.

“It’s a trait that’s passed on from father to son,” he said.

Mr Moor said the Calabrian mafia is more active than people might realise in Australia.

“If anyone smoked a joint in the 60s, 70s, 80s — and lets face it a lot of people did — they were lining the pockets of the Calabrian mafia,” he said.

“They gradually got into the heroin trade… then they expanded to ecstasy.

“They basically recognised what the next big thing was in the drug market.”


Police found the man, 35-year-old Pasquale Barbaro, on an Earlwood footpath after being alerted to a shooting at about 9.40pm on Monday.

And a grey Audi Q7 found burned out in Sydney’s inner west could be the getaway car used in the execution-style shooting of a man linked to Sydney’s criminal underworld, say police.

Execution of standover man filmed

Meanwhile, the front door execution in 2013 of standover man Joe Antoun, a known associate of underworld figure George Alex, was captured on CCTV and played for a Sydney courtroom today – hours after Pasquale Barbaro was gunned down outside Alex’s home.

Mr Antoun was gunned down on the doorstep of his Strathfield home in Sydney’s inner west on December 16, 2013, in a contract killing allegedly arranged by Brothers 4 Life boss Farhad Quami and his brother Mumtaz.

Farhad, 34, and Mumtaz Quami, 31, have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Antoun, who worked as a debt collector.

In their trial, CCTV footage was played showing a hooded figure waiting for several minutes before pulling out a handgun and firing several times.

The Daily Telegraph reported Crown Prosecutor Ken McKay SC told their NSW Supreme Court trial before a judge alone Antoun was at home with his wife when a camera showed a man at their front door.

“(Mr Antoun’s wife) went to a window and looked out and saw a person and called out to that person, asking who it was. The person she heard say, ‘It’s Adam. I’ve got a package for Joe’,” Mr McKay said.

“At about this time, Joseph Antoun opened the front door. There was a wire security door which was still closed. As he opened the door, Mr Antoun was shot a number of times and died in his house, it seems very quickly after being.”

The court heard, according to The Daily Telegraph, that before Antoun’s death his former business partner Elias “Les” Elias had agreed to purchase Mimtaz Qaumi’s Erina Kebab House for $190,000.

Mr Elias is in the Philippines, according to a police witness, and declined to provide a statement for the trial.

The confronting CCTV footage was shown hours after Barbaro’s execution this morning outside Mr Alex’s Earlwood home.

CCTV of Joe Antoun shot at his Strathfield home

Police investigation

NSW Police believe it could be linked to the killing of Mr Barbaro. “That vehicle has been towed for forensic examination,” Superintendent David Johnson told reporters.

Supt Johsonn said the victim, who had been visiting someone in the street, had been “shot a number of times”.

Police are now appealing for witnesses to come forward so homicide investigators can piece together a chain of events that includes the Audi. Supt Johnson acknowledges some of the victim’s associates might not be keen to contact police.

“Given the sort of nefarious activities these people are engaged in, clearly it is in their best interests to come forward and speak to police,” he added. “These people [the shooters] are dangerous people.”

‘Targeted attack’

Early investigations suggest it was a targeted attack and Larkhall Street was cordoned off today as forensic teams examined the area.

Barbaro’s grandfather and cousin were both killed in gangland hits and there had been unconfirmed rumours Pasquale Barbaro was an informant for the NSW Crime Commission.

Pasquale Barbaro’s grandfather Peter Pasquale Barbaro and his coulsin Pat Barbaro

Pasquale Barbaro’s grandfather Peter Pasquale Barbaro and his cousin Pat Barbaro

Gabriela Pintos lives at the end of street and said she heard gunshots late at night.

“We heard the gunshots … another maybe four gunshots and a couple of minutes later there was someone screaming,” she told AAP.

Another resident told AAP he heard as a many as seven really loud bangs in two bursts and saw a car speed away.

“You knew straight away what it was … I looked out the front and saw a car speed off,” the man, who wanted to be identified as John, said. Witnesses also reported seeing a car with three or four men wearing hoodies parked nearby ahead of the shooting.

He ‘may have broken the mafia code’

Barbaro may have been gunned down in Sydney because he was talking to the authorities, according to a journalist who’s written a book on the Barbaro family.

Journalist Keith Moor says the latest Pasquale Barbaro to die might have been killed for the same reason his grandfather was – he may have been “telling tales outside of school and breaking the code”.

“There could be other motives but that is a line of inquiry the homicide squad in Sydney will be pursuing,” the author of Busted told ABC TV.

Moor believes Monday night’s shooting could be difficult to solve because traditionally the Calabrian mafia are reluctant to talk to authorities. “I’m presuming that none of the Barbaro family will be willing to help police,” he said.

“They’ll probably do their own investigation into what happened.” The journalist said the problem for police trying to crack down on the Barbaros was that, as soon as one was knocked down, another seemed to pop up. “That’s been going on for generations,” he said.

Asaad shooting

The death comes two weeks after another crime figure, Hamad Assaad, was shot dead outside his Georges Hall home.

Mr Assaad was a key suspect in the execution of standover man Walid Ahmad at a Bankstown shopping centre in April.

Infamous underworld figure Jason Moran and Past Barbaro were gunned down in Essendon in 2003.

Infamous underworld figure Jason Moran and Past Barbaro were gunned down in Essendon in 2003.

That killing was thought to be in retaliation for the shooting homicide of Safwan Charbaji outside a nearby panel beater two weeks earlier. Pasquale Barbaro’s grandfather Peter Pasquale Barbaro was gunned down in Brisbane in 1990 while his cousin Pat Barbaro was shot dead in a car park in Melbourne in 2003.

The Pasquale Barbaro sentenced in 2012 jail over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

The Pasquale Barbaro sentenced in 2012 jail over the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

Another cousin, also called Pasquale, was involved in what was described as the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.

Some 15 million pills were hidden inside tinned tomatoes and shipped by the Calabrian mafia from Italy to Melbourne.

– With AAP


What a turn up-Matthew Leveson’s former partner Michael Atkins helping in search for body


Matthew Leveson’s former partner Michael Atkins helping in search for body

3.16pm 10/11/16

The partner of missing Sydney man Matthew Leveson is assisting police in a search for a body at the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, police have confirmed.

Michael Atkins, 53, has been helping police with their inquiries since Friday after being compelled to give evidence at an inquest.

Mr Leveson, 20, was last seen outside Sydney nightclub ARQ with Mr Atkins on the night he disappeared.

His body has never been found.

In February 2012, a $100,000 reward was announced for information leading to the discovery of Mr Leveson’s body.

In 2009, Mr Atkins was acquitted of murdering his former partner after a trial during in which he exercised his right to silence.

This morning, he was due to resume giving evidence for a sixth day at an inquest in Sydney but the hearing was adjourned until 2:00pm.

It is believed homicide detectives have been negotiating with Mr Atkins and his lawyers since Friday.

Deputy state coroner Elaine Truscott compelled Mr Atkins to give evidence and granted him immunity from prosecution, which means any evidence he gives cannot be used against him in a criminal trial.

Police said detectives received information that led them to the Royal National Park this morning.

An extensive search is being conducted of the area and a crime scene has been established.

Police have cordoned off an area of bush about four kilometres from the Waterfall entrance to the Royal National Park.

At least four detectives are on site and a forensics van is parked on the side of the road.

A bushwalking track is inside the crime scene area.

Mr Leveson’s parents Faye and Mark Leveson spoke briefly outside Glebe Coroner’s Court.

“I’m sorry but for the time being, we just can’t talk to you. The police have asked me not to say anything at this stage, we’ve got to respect that,” Mr Leveson said.

“So please understand and be patient, when we can talk to you, we will, but for right now we just can’t say anything. So thank you all for your interest … it’s really appreciated.”

Atkins apologised to Mr Leveson’s parents during inquest

During the inquest, Mr Atkins apologised to his missing partner’s parents “for their loss” while answering questions about Mr Leveson’s presumed death.

Mr Leveson’s parents stood with their arms wrapped around each other facing Mr Atkins as he gave evidence.

Counsel assisting the inquest Lester Fernandez asked Mr Atkins to address the Leveson family.

Mr Atkins told the family he was sorry for their loss but said he did not kill Mr Leveson.

More on this story:

Michael Atkins tells police where he buried Matthew Leveson’s body

A MAN acquitted of murdering his young lover has told police where he buried the body.

Detectives have spent two days at the Royal National Park south of Sydney with electrician Michael Atkins as he has finally broken his silence on what happened to the body of Matt Leveson, 20, and has taken police to his possible grave sites.

Police have also requested help from the rescue squad to provide a drone to help search the rugged bushland.

Matthew Leveson was last seen in 2007. Picture: supplied

The inquest into Matt’s disappearance in 2007, after he left a Sydney nightclub with Mr Atkins, has been adjourned today pending the shock development.

Matt’s family, Mark and Faye Leveson, were with their other two sons at Glebe Coroners Court today as they waited for the news they had hoped for — where their son’s body is so they can bring him home to bury him.

Mr Atkins was acquitted in 2009 by a jury of the murder and manslaughter of Matt, with whom he lived at Cronulla.

Parents of Matthew Leveson, Faye and Mark, at the Coroners court in Glebe today. Picture Renee Nowytarger

He was compelled to give evidence at the inquest but given immunity from prosecution if he told the truth at the inquest into what happened to Matt — but on Friday he admitted to having lied to the court about his police interview.

SEPTEMBER 23, 2007

Matthew Leveson was last seen leaving ARQ nightclub at Surry Hills about 2am

SEPTEMBER 25, 2007

Matthew Leveson, aged 20, reported missing by concerned relatives after he failed to arrive at work and could not be contacted.

SEPTEMBER 27, 2007

Matthew Leveson’s car found by police at Waratah Oval in Sutherland.

OCTOBER 2009

Michael Atkins acquitted by a jury of Mr Leveson’s murder and manslaughter

FEBRUARY 2012

A $100,000 reward was announced for information leading to the discovery of Matthew Leveson’s body.

TODAY:

Police have launched a search in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, in connection with an ongoing investigation into missing man Matthew Leveson.

It is understood that police used Mr Atkins confession to having lied as leverage to get him to confess to where Matt’s body is.

He had told police when he was interviewed after Matt’s disappearance, he claimed to have been asleep in the couple’s flat and woke up to find Matt missing but he was confronted with CCTV footage of him buying a mattock and duct tape at Taren Point Bunnings.

CCTV footage of Michael Atkins leaving the cash register at the Bunnings Store at Taren Point.

The receipt for the purchase with Mr Atkins fingerprint on it was found in Matt’s car which was discovered at Waratah Oval five days after he disappeared.

Mr Atkins had first told the inquest last week that he had told police the truth in the interview.

Then on Friday he admitted that he had lied to them because he was “scared” of them — and therefore lied to the inquest.

Police have today launched a search in the Royal National Park in Sydney’s Sutherland shire.

  • Matthew Leveson: Michael Atkins loses appeal, must give evidence at inquest into lover’s death

    Updated 12 Oct 2016, 4:42pm

    Michael Atkins, who was acquitted of murdering his lover Matthew Leveson, must give evidence at a coronial inquest into the younger man’s death in 2007, a NSW appeal judge has said.

    Mr Atkins was the last person to see Mr Leveson alive,outside the Sydney nightclub Arq in September 2007.

    Mr Leveson’s body has never been found.

    Mr Atkins was later acquitted of murder and manslaughter.

    He exercised his right to silence during his trial in 2009 and is expected to give evidence about the matter for the first time.

    Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott ordered Mr Atkins to address the inquest, and he appealed against the order in the Supreme Court.

    In dismissing his case, Justice Lucy McCallum said:

    “The right to silence is, of course, important. But so is the coroner’s jurisdiction.”

    Under an order given by the coroner, Mr Atkins’ evidence cannot be used against him in a criminal trial.

    ‘We just want to bring Matt home’

    Mr Leveson’s mother, Faye Leveson, cried outside the Supreme Court and begged Atkins’ family to encourage him to reveal anything he knew.

    “It’s our world, it’s our family” she said.

    “How do you tell your other two boys, how do you tell them you can’t give them their brother back? It’s just not fair.”

    Ms Leveson said she hoped the inquest would help the family locate her son’s remains.

    “We just want to bring Matt home. That’s all we want,” she said.

    Mr Atkins will give evidence at the coronial inquest at Glebe Coroner’s Court on October 31.

    First posted 12 Oct 2016, 11:36am


    Matt Leveson inquest: Witness tells of threesomes with Michael Atkins, the man acquitted of missing man’s murder

    HIS arms around his young partner, this is Michael Atkins and Matt Leveson on their last night together.

     

    It was taken at Darlinghurst’s Arq nightclub in September 2007 and just hours later Matt, 22, would be missing and Mr Atkins, 52, would later be charged and acquitted of his murder.

    Their friend, given the pseudonym John Burns, has told the inquest into Matt’s death how he took this photograph at Arq either late on September 23 or early on September 24, 2007.

    It has been tendered to the inquest at Glebe Coroners Court today.

    Mr Burns told the inquest of his sexual threesomes with the couple.

    He said he only had sex with his friend Matt Leveson, 20, and Matt’s partner Michael Atkins, 52, because he wanted to get closer to Mr Leveson.

    Mr Burns is believed to be the last person to have spoken to Matt, albeit by text message, before he went “missing” after leaving Darlinghurst’s Arq Nightclub with Mr Atkins in the early hours of Sunday September 23, 2007.

    CCTV footage of Michael Atkins at Bunnings Store at Taren Point.
    Michael Atkins and Matt Leveson on the night before Mr Leveson went missing.

    Mr Atkins, who the inquest has heard lied to police about being at home later that Sunday when he was caught on CCTV buying a mattock and duct tape from Bunnings, was charged with Matt’s murder but acquitted by a jury in 2009.

    Mr Leveson’s body has never been found.

    Mr Atkins, now living in Brisbane, did not give evidence at his trial but he has been subpoenaed to give evidence at the inquest. He is sitting in a Sydney courtroom packed with Matt’s family and friends listening to the evidence of Mr Burns.

    Mr Burns told the inquest that Mr Atkins used to “hit on” the young men at Arq by giving them free drugs — ecstasy and GHB.

    He said the three men had sex together twice and after that, he noticed a difference in the relationship between Matt and Mr Atkins who had been living together in Mr Atkins’ Cronulla unit.

    He said Matt did not appear to want to be around Mr Atkins as much and there was an “obvious distance” between them.

    Mr Leveson was last seen leaving Arq nightclub.
    Matt Leveson who police believe was killed on in 2007, although his body has never been found.
    Michael Atkins arrives at Glebe Coroners Court in Sydney today for the inquest. Picture: Mick Tsikas

    On the evening of September 22, 2007, he met up with Matt and Mr Atkins at Arq where Matt was his usual energetic, happy self, bouncing around to the music, he said.

    The inquest has heard that Mr Atkins told police that he had take Matt home because he was sleepy but Mr Burns said Matt had told him he did not want to leave the nightclub.

    In one of a series of text messages, Matt told Mr Burns that Mr Atkins was “taking me home and won’t let me stay!”

    In another text, Matt said: “He needs to f***ing get over himself.”

    Mr Burns told the inquest that Matt had earlier told him that Mr Atkins was very controlling and he had not been able to go out on his own since their relationship began.

Georges Hall shooting: Hamad Asaad shot dead in ‘drive-by’ attack linked to Bankstown shopping centre execution of Walid ‘Wally’ Ahmad


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Georges Hall shooting: Man shot dead in ‘drive-by’ attack

‘Too wild for his own good’: Suspected gangland trigger man gunned down in Sydney

Six months after standover man Walid “Wally” Ahmad was gunned down in a brazen and very public execution, the man suspected of pulling the trigger has suffered a similar fate.

Hamad Assaad, 29, had been on the police radar after he was identified as a key suspect in the death of Mr Ahmad, who was shot as he sat in a cafe outside Bankstown Central shopping centre in April.

A man believed to be in his twenties, has been shot dead in Georges Hall, south west Sydney.

Investigators believe Mr Assaad was aligned to a rival family, which some of the Ahmads had been pitted against after another shooting outside Wally Ahmad’s smash repairs in Sydney’s south-west.

“He was on the other team,” one source put it.

It is not yet certain whether Mr Assaad’s death was in response to his widely rumoured role in the death of Mr Ahmad, who was at the helm of one of south-west Sydney’s infamous families.

Investigators suspect two gunmen and a driver were lying in wait in a black car near Mr Assaad’s Georges Hall home on Tuesday morning for him to emerge.

At about 9.20am, he walked out of his family’s Sturt Avenue home with a 12-year-old boy, whom he was about to drive somewhere.

After moving one car from the garage, Mr Assaad was getting into another when two gunmen opened fire.

“This is a targeted shooting,” Homicide Squad Detective Chief Inspector Grant Taylor said.

“These individuals obviously wanted to kill him, there is no doubt about that.”

Mr Assaad was shot “many” times, police say, and despite attempts to revive him he died on his driveway.

Neighbours said they heard a rapid succession of up to six gunshots, which sounded like they came from a semi-automatic weapon.

“I was about to go in mum’s car and I heard boom boom boom,” said the daughter of Sturt Avenue resident Sonya Aleksandrova.

“I was like, ‘Mummy, mummy shut everything please hide, shut the doors, shut the windows’.”

Mr Assaad’s mother emerged from their home, hysterical, after the shooting to find her bloodied son. Traumatic scenes followed.

Many relatives and friends flocked to the taped-off crime scene throughout the day, with one man caught jumping into the Assaad home back yard.

Wally Elriche, the one-time bodyguard for Salim Mehajer, was among a small group of men circled by police at the rear of the Assaad home.

He was not arrested but another man was loaded into the back of a police truck and taken away.

At another side of the crime scene, Mr Assaad’s distraught grandmother demanded officers let her past the police tape.

“They won’t let me see my son’s son,” she said.

“He hasn’t done anything at all. Go catch the drug dealers, gun dealers, they are killing people.”

The latest shooting has fuelled concerns about retaliation, with the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad part of the push to try to quell those concerns.

“We are always concerned about any potential retaliation from events like this,” Inspector Taylor said.

An obvious line of inquiry for police is whether Mr Assaad, a well-known figure in the south-west criminal community, was killed in retribution to Wally Ahmad’s demise.

However, police stressed they were keeping all avenues open.

Mr Assaad had previously escaped a conviction for the murder of Mohamad Alahmad, 37, who was shot six times as he sat in his BMW in the driveway of his South Granville home in 2007.

It was alleged at the time that Mr Alahmad’s ex-wife was in a relationship with crime boss Nasser Kalache but had started talking to Mr Alahmad about a possible reconciliation.

Mr Assaad was then under orders to kill Mr Alahmad with another man.

He beat the charge and was found not guilty in 2010.

In the wake of his death, a friend revealed Mr Assaad had run for Kalache for years.

“He was too wild for his own good,” he said.

“He was a really nice kid but you could direct him [to do something].”

The Homicide Squad now has three murder investigations in 2016 with possible links to the Ahmad family conflict.

It started with the shooting of Safwan Charbaji, 32, outside Wally Ahmad’s Condell Park smash repairs in April.

The conflict erupted between members of the Elmir and Ahmad family over a bizarre $100,000 kidnapping plan.

Mr Charbaji was killed and another man was shot in the jaw but survived.

Wally’s brother, Mahmoud “Brownie” Ahmad, is one of a handful of men police suspect used a gun that day. He travelled to Lebanon after the shooting.


Boy witnessed dad’s drive-by shooting death

LAURA BANKS, JACK HOUGHTON and DAVE MEDDOWS, The Daily Telegraph

A MAN — who was a suspect in a gangland hit at a Bankstown shopping centre earlier this year — was gunned down in the driveway of a south western Sydney house as he was getting ready to take his young son to school.

Hamad Asaad, 29, who was shot repeatedly in the driveway of a Georges Hall house just before 9.30am, was a suspect in the murder of Walid ‘Wally’ Ahmad, who was gunned down in the carpark of Bankstown Central in April, police sources told The Daily Telegraph.

Ahmad was killed in a hail of bullets when he was ambushed in the midday attack, where two other bystanders were also shot.

Police believe Ahmad’s killing may have been retribution for the murder of Safwan Charbaji earlier in April outside Ahmed’s smash repair shop in Condell Park.

A sheet covers the body of a man gunned down in a driveway in Georges Hall.

Asaad was also acquitted in the murder of Mohamad Alahmad who was shot while getting into his BMW outside his Granville home in August 2008.

It is believed Mr Alahmad’s wife Eman Hamawi had left him and entered into a relationship with crime boss Nasser Kalache but was considering reconciling with the murdered man.

Asaad collapsed in the driveway suffering multiple gunshot wounds about 9.30am. He died a short time later.

There are reports he had been shot in the head.

The man’s body was covered with a white sheet and a large quantity of blood could be seen on the concrete.

Paramedics had worked to save the man but he died at the scene.

A crime scene was set up and police from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad are involved in the investigation.

The sister of the victim broke down trying to get to her brother.

With tears streaming down her face, the woman begged police guarding the scene to let her in.

“Please, he’s my brother,” she said before being told she could not enter.

The woman ran off towards another distressed person waiting in a car.

A visibly distraught man is held back by friends and police at the scene. Picture: AAP
Asaad’s visibly distressed mother was helped from the scene by police and an unknown man..
Police had to earlier hold back this distraught man, believed to be the victim’s brother, who was trying to gain access to the crime scene.

A man wearing a hoodie was also seen pleading with police to be let into the crime scene, shouting the victim was his brother.

Police were also seen leading an older woman from the scene, but it is unclear if she is related to the man.

Chief Inspector Grant Taylor said the shooting was “targeted” and unfolded in a matter of seconds.

He confirmed the man had ties to Middle Eastern crime gangs.

“He was moving one car out of the driveway when he was shot multiple times,” he said.

“His mother was home at the time. She is hysterical as you can imagine.”

Insp Taylor said the victim was being “observed” by the shooters before the attack.

“The motivation behind this murder is not really known and it would not be the right thing for us to speculate,” he said.

“The family is very distraught.”

An employee of nearby Pool and Spa Warehouse, Robert, told The Daily Telegraph he heard eight to 10 shots, and ran outside to see a car speed from the location.

“We heard the shots going off and walked out and saw I’m pretty sure a black Mercedes fly up the road,” he said.

Police have since confirmed the vehicle was a black Audi sedan.

Robert said it sounded like more than one gun was used in the shooting.

“It sounded like there were six (shots) from one gun and then I heard another shot that sounded like it came from another gun,” he said.

Dozens of police raced to the scene after reports of the shooting.
Police from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad are among those at the scene.

His colleague Raj Goundar, 50, agreed.

“I think it was an automatic weapon because it went dudududud really fast,” he said.

“It was not a simple one shot, there were a lot of them.

“It is scary but if you hang with the wrong crowd this happens.”

The shooting took place at Sturt Ave, Georges Hall


 

JACK HOUGHTON, LAURA BANKS and DAVID MEDDOWS The Daily Telegraph

A MAN shot dead on a south-western Sydney driveway this morning was a suspect in a gangland hit at a Bankstown shopping centre earlier this year.

Hamad Asaad, 29, who was gunned down in the driveway of a Georges Hall house just before 9.30am, was a suspect in the murder of Walid ‘Wally’ Ahmad, who was gunned down in the carpark of Bankstown Central in April, police sources told The Daily Telegraph.

Ahmad was killed in a hail of bullets when he was ambushed in the midday attack, where two other bystanders were also shot.

Police believe Ahmad’s killing may have been retribution for the murder of Safwan Charbaji earlier in April outside Ahmed’s smash repair shop in Condell Park.

A sheet covers the body of a man gunned down in a driveway in Georges Hall.

A sheet covers the body of a man gunned down in a driveway in Georges Hall.Source:News Corp Australia

Walid ‘Wally’ Ahmad was ambushed and shot dead at Bankstown Central in April. Picture: Seven News

Walid ‘Wally’ Ahmad was ambushed and shot dead at Bankstown Central in April. Picture: Seven NewsSource:Channel 7

CCTV shows the moment Ahmad was shot in the April attack.

CCTV shows the moment Ahmad was shot in the April attack.Source:Supplied

Asaad collapsed in the driveway suffering multiple gunshot wounds about 9.30am. He died a short time later.

There are reports he had been shot in the head.

The man’s body was covered with a white sheet and a large quantity of blood could be seen on the concrete.

Paramedics had worked to save the man but he died at the scene.

Paramedics had worked to save the man but he died at the scene.Source:News Corp Australia

A crime scene was set up and police from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad are involved in the investigation.

The sister of the victim broke down trying to get to her brother.

With tears streaming down her face, the woman begged police guarding the scene to let her in.

“Please, he’s my brother,” she said before being told she could not enter.

The woman ran off towards another distressed person waiting in a car.

Police and paramedics at the scene.

Police and paramedics at the scene.Source:News Corp Australia

A visibly distressed woman was helped from the scene by police and an unknown man..

A visibly distressed woman was helped from the scene by police and an unknown man..Source:News Corp Australia

Police had to earlier hold back this distraught man who was trying to gain access to the crime scene.

Police had to earlier hold back this distraught man who was trying to gain access to the crime scene.Source:News Corp Australia

A man wearing a hoodie was also seen pleading with police to be let into the crime scene, shouting the victim was his brother.

Police were also seen leading an older woman from the scene, but it is unclear if she is related to the man.

Chief Inspector Grant Taylor said the shooting was “targeted” and unfolded in a matter of seconds.

He confirmed the man had ties to Middle Eastern crime gangs.

“He was moving one car out of the driveway when he was shot multiple times,” he said.

“His mother was home at the time. She is hysterical as you can imagine.”

Insp Taylor said the victim was being “observed” by the shooters before the attack.

“The motivation behind this murder is not really known and it would not be the right thing for us to speculate,” he said.

“The family is very distraught.”

An employee of nearby Pool and Spa Warehouse, Robert, told The Daily Telegraph he heard eight to 10 shots, and ran outside to see a car speed from the location.

“We heard the shots going off and walked out and saw I’m pretty sure a black Mercedes fly up the road,” he said.

Police have since confirmed the vehicle was a black Audi sedan.

Robert said it sounded like more than one gun was used in the shooting.

“It sounded like there were six (shots) from one gun and then I heard another shot that sounded like it came from another gun,” he said.

Dozens of police raced to the scene after reports of the shooting.

Dozens of police raced to the scene after reports of the shooting.Source:News Corp Australia

Neighbours said the man moved into the home about six months ago with a wife and young children.
Neighbours said the man moved into the home about six months ago with a wife and young children.
Police from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad are among those at the scene.

Police from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad are among those at the scene.Source:News Corp Australia

His colleague Raj Goundar, 50, agreed.

“I think it was an automatic weapon because it went dudududud really fast,” he said.

“It was not a simple one shot, there were a lot of them.

“It is scary but if you hang with the wrong crowd this happens.”

The shooting took place at Sturt Ave, Georges Hall

The shooting took place at Sturt Ave, Georges HallSource:The Daily


dailymail.co.uk

Man shot dead outside a Sydney house in drive-by attack

  • A man, 29, was gunned down in Sydney’s south-west on Tuesday morning
  • Emergency services were called to a house on Sturt Ave in Georges Hall about 9.20am
  • Paramedics treated the man for multiple gunshot wounds but he died at the scene
  • A black ‘sports type’ sedan was seen leaving the scene, NSW Police said

The victim was a key suspect in the murder of gangland figure Walid ‘Wally’ Ahmad gunned down in April

  •  WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT BELOW 

A man gunned down outside his house in Sydney’s south-west on Tuesday morning was known to police and was believed to be a key suspect in the execution-style murder of a prominent gangland figure.

Hamad Assaad, 29, was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting on Sturt Ave in Georges Hall at 9.20am.

Police said they believe the victim was leaving his house when two shooters in the back of a black sports car shot him dead in board daylight.

Assaad was a suspect in the shooting of gangland figure Walid ‘Wally’ Ahmad, who was gunned down in April this year, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Ahmad’s murder at a Bankstown shopping centre was thought to be retribution for the killing earlier that month of another man, Safwan Charbaji.

Scroll down for video 

A man in his 20s has been gunned down outside a house in Sydney’s south-west

He was shot multiple times outside a house on Sturt Ave, Georges Hall, about 9.20am on Tuesday

Police are seen here speaking to onlookers at the scene

The victim was a suspect in the shooting of gangland figure Walid ‘Wally’ Ahmad (pictured)

In 2010 Assaad was charged with murder in another drive-by shooting, relating to a love triangle, but was found not-guilty of killing Mohamad Alahmad, 37.

On Tuesday after Assaad was shot, he was treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics for multiple wounds, however he died at the scene.

‘These individuals obviously wanted to kill him. There’s no doubt about that. He was the target,’ Detective Chief Inspector Grant Taylor said.

The man’s distraught mother was home at the time of the attack, however it is not yet clear if she witnessed her son’s murder.

Ahmad’s murder at a Bankstown shopping centre (pictured) was thought to be retribution for the killing earlier that month of another man, Safwan Charbaji.

Nearby residents and shops said they heard multiple gunshots

A black Audi sedan was seen leaving the scene

Man shot dead in execution-style hit in his Sydney driveway

He was well known to police, and detectives from the State Crime Commisison, Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad and officers from the south-west Sydney region are investigating.

Officers described the attack as a ‘targeted shooting’, and are currently scouring CCTV footage from businesses and homes in the area.

Photos showed the man’s body laying in the driveway covered by a white sheet, and a large amount of blood could be seen on the concrete beside him.

Police from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad are reportedly at the scene

Officers are seen here speaking to bystanders

A distraught man was held back by friends and police after arriving at the scene

The man was comforted by a friend as police blocked his entrance to the crime scene

Earlier it was reported police were hunting for a black Audi seen in the area, however it was later confirmed they were hunting for a black ‘sports type’ sedan.

A hairdresser at Tamed Hair by Rose, around the corner from the house, heard the gun shots.

‘It does happen but it hasn’t happened quite so close to us,’ Rose told AAP.

‘It was pretty frightening.’

Disturbing footage showed paramedics performing CPR on Ahmad after he was  fatally shot in April 2016

A man was treated by paramedics at the scene of Walid ‘Wally’ Ahmad’s shooting in April for gunshot wounds to his leg before being taken to hospital

An injured bystander after the April 2016 shooting of Wally Ahmad