Jailed drug traffickers who are appealing against their convictions because of their involvements with barrister-turned-informer Nicola Gobbo are still waiting for police to hand over documents they suspect could be crucial in their legal fights.
Four former clients of Ms Gobbo, who was their lawyer while snitching on them as a registered police informer, had their cases before the Court of Appeal on Thursday so court president Chris Maxwell could be updated on how the appeals were progressing. The men argue their convictions were tainted by Ms Gobbo’s connection.
Francesco Madafferi in 2009.Credit:Paul Rovere
Another four men, including crime boss Tony Mokbel, will have their cases appear for administrative hearings on Friday.
In separate hearings on Thursday, lawyers for Zlate Cvetanovski and Francesco Madafferi said they were waiting on police to disclose documents detailing the relationship Ms Gobbo had with others connected to the respective cases. Lawyers for two other jailed men, Rob Karam and Carmelo Falanga, said they were also awaiting documents to help boost their cases.
The wait for disclosure comes as the deadline approaches for police to make available crucial information to people affected by the Gobbo scandal. One of the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants was for Victoria Police to disclose material within three months of the date the findings were handed down (November 30 last year).
Madafferi, who has served more than six years of a 10-year jail term after his arrest in connection to the importation of 15 million ecstasy pills in tomato tins, is seeking more information on the relationship between Ms Gobbo and Madafferi’s long-time solicitor, Joseph Acquaro.
Nicola Gobbo with Joe ‘Pino’ Acquaro (far left), who was killed outside his Brunswick gelati shop, and Calabrian mafia boss Pasquale Barbaro.Credit:Nine News
It was revealed last month that Mr Acquaro had provided information to police about former clients but that he was never a registered informer. The solicitor was shot dead outside his Brunswick East gelato shop in 2016 and a man is awaiting trial charged with murder.
Madafferi’s current lawyer, Catherine Boston, said on Thursday she was waiting for police to disclose documents and expected them to be heavily redacted. She and her client “are anxious to keep things moving” as Madafferi has served most of his sentence and is due for parole in August.
Mr Cvetanovksi last year had his conviction for drug trafficking quashed when the Court of Appeal found the involvement of Ms Gobbo and a criminal-turned-supergrass referred to as Mr Cooper represented a substantial miscarriage of justice.
The court found Mr Cvetanovski’s trial was irrevocably contaminated when Victoria Police secretly paid $10,000 to Mr Cooper in return for evidence that led to the convictions of 24 people, including Mr Cvetanovski and Mokbel.
Zlate Cvetanovski after his conviction was quashed last year.Credit:Jason South
Mr Cvetanovski was bailed last year after spending 11 years in prison and then had his conviction quashed in October. He is no longer in custody but still has two convictions against him, for fraud offences, and so is appealing to clear his name.
Lawyers for Victoria Police said they expected the documents would be disclosed soon.
Lawyers for Karam and Falanga, who are both serving long sentences for their roles in the tomato tins bust, told the court they were also waiting on the release of documents but said it wouldn’t delay the appeal hearings.
Karam’s appeal was the most advanced and was lodged before the others, the court heard, and the substantive hearing could be held in June.
Rob Karam.Credit:Paul Rovere
His lawyer, Theo Alexander, said the timing of when Ms Gobbo was officially acting as Karam’s barrister was central to the appeal.
Falanga’s lawyer, Jason Gullaci, said their appeal could follow Karam’s as the issues in dispute were similar in both cases.
Justice Maxwell said the court aimed to prioritise the “so-called Gobbo appeals” given their long histories and significance, but indicated some challenges were at least a year away from being resolved.
“We are treating this matter as a real priority for 2021 and into 2022 as a court because they mean … quite a significant load in hearing times,” he said.
“They are of such public importance we think it our obligation them coming on for hearing as soon as practicable.”
Mr Gullaci said Jan Visser, who last year had his appeal against a drug trafficking conviction dismissed, planned to take his challenge to the High Court.
Visser was not represented by Ms Gobbo but argued at appeal her actions in tipping off authorities about the tomato tins importation tainted the entire case against him.
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