One of Australia's biggest drug barons, "Fat Tony" Mokbel, was jailed for 30 years yesterday for running a multi-million-dollar smuggling cartel whose profits he ploughed into sports cars, racehorses and luxury apartments.
One more chapter of Melbourne's long-running gangland war was closed with the sentencing, which followed Mokbel's extradition from Greece, where he had fled in March 2006 aboard a yacht.
Most of the key underworld figures were dead or in prison by then, and he might have escaped justice had he not continued to direct his drug operations from afar.
Intercepted calls led police to Athens, where he was arrested in a beachside coffee shop in June 2007, wearing an ill-fitting wig.
Now considerably slimmer, thanks to a strict exercise regime he has followed in prison, Mokbel, 46, winked at reporters as he was led out of the Victorian Supreme Court. He thanked the judge, Justice Simon Whelan, who had imposed a non-parole period of 22 years.
Mokbel had pleaded guilty to trafficking vast quantities of ecstasy and speed, in exchange for police dropping other drugs charges – and a charge of murdering a hot-dog salesman and part-time ecstasy dealer, Michael Marshall, who was shot dead in 2003 in front of his five-year-old son.
Mokbel had already been acquitted, at a secret trial in 2009, of murdering another gangster, Lewis Moran.
Justice Whelan told him he had shown "arrogant contempt for the law and… an incorrigible determination to persist in serious, businesslike drug trafficking".
"Drug dealing was your business," he said. "It was your area of expertise. It was your career." He added that while Mokbel clearly wished things had turned out differently, he was sceptical about the Lebanese-Australian's professed remorse.
The murders of Moran and Marshall were among 29 killings that shattered Melbourne's genteel veneer between 1998 and 2006, making the city seem like the backdrop for a real-life episode of The Sopranos. The tit-for-tat shootings, carried out by rival criminal families and their associates, were dramatised in a ratings-topping TV mini-series, Underbelly. When it was shown in Victoria, entire scenes were cut out and Mokbel's features were pixellated – thanks to a court order obtained by detectives, who at that time were still stalking him and other pivotal figures.
Mokbel headed The Company, a sprawling syndicate which manufactured amphetamines and imported cocaine and MDMA, the main ingredient in ecstasy.
His underlings called him The General; he named one of his racehorses Frosty the Snowman, a slang term for drugs.
Corrupt police are believed to have connived with him.
It remains to be seen whether Mokbel, who has been in prison in Australia since his extradition in 2008 and suffered a heart attack in February, survives long enough to taste freedom again.
Mokbel's father died suddenly from a heart attack in his early 50s, on young Tony's 15th birthday, The Australian reported.
A cardiologist has testified the mobster may not live to qualify for parole, although he has now embarked on an intensive exercise programme in an effort to improve his life expectancy.
Even if Mokbel does survive long enough to be released, his days may be numbered, as he has plenty of enemies. Police say they have "no doubt he was involved in several underworld murders".
Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Danielle McGuire, has left him – for the boss of a motorcycle gang, the Bandidos.
The tough underbelly: Crime families at war
Carl Williams Once a friend of Mokbel, he was clubbed to death by a fellow prisoner in 2010 while serving a life sentence for four murders.
Judy Moran Serving 26 years for the murder of her brother-in-law, Des "Tuppence" Moran, in a gangland war that led to the deaths of her husband, Lewis, and her two sons.
Jason Moran One of Judy's sons, he was shot dead while watching a football match in 2003. It was his shooting of Carl Williams in the stomach in 1999 that set off the tit-for-tat killings.
Mick "The Don" Gatto Rival gang leader to Mokbel, he was acquitted of murdering suspected hitman Andrew Veniamin in 2004 after pleading self-defence.
Tony Mokbel Known as 'Fat Tony', he fled to Athens aboard a private yacht, where he oversaw drug sales worth millions of pounds before his arrest and extradition
- More about:
- Gangster And Gangs
- Judges (court Of Law)
- Sailing (yachting)
- Supreme Court