The Lawyer X royal commission has ordered Nicola Gobbo to give evidence to the inquiry over the phone, after her lawyer had argued taking the stand could cause her to suffer “a psychotic mental health breakdown”.
Welcome to our blog covering the Lawyer X royal commission.
ABC journalists will regularly update this article with developments from the inquiry. You can skip to the latest news or catch up on background.
ICYMI: The background
- Criminal defence barrister Nicola Gobbo was used as a police informer a number of times between 1995 and 2009
- Ms Gobbo’s clients included some of Victoria’s most notorious criminals, including Carl Williams and Tony Mokbel
- The scandal raised unprecedented ethical and legal concerns and has already resulted in Faruk Orman being freed from jail after having his conviction for murder quashed
- Victoria Police spent five years and $4.52 million trying to keep their use of Ms Gobbo a secret
- Known as ‘Informer 3838‘ by Victoria Police and dubbed ‘Lawyer X‘ by the media, Ms Gobbo’s identity was revealed in 2018
- Costing $28 million, the Royal Commission into Management of Police Informants is trying to work out how many convictions have been tainted by her use
Commissioner rejects Nicola Gobbo’s pleas to avoid giving evidence
As the royal commission nears the end of nearly a year of hearings, the lawyer at the centre of the unprecedented legal scandal has been told she will not be excused from giving evidence, despite her poor health.
For months, Nicola Gobbo’s lawyers have been arguing to commissioner Margaret McMurdo that Ms Gobbo was too unwell to give evidence.
The commission’s been told Ms Gobbo lives in fear, has suicidal thoughts and could suffer “a psychotic mental health breakdown” if she is forced to take the stand.
More than 10 medical reports dating back more than a decade have been put before the commission, one of which stated that Ms Gobbo cried “most days” and felt her brain could not “function normally”.
But after deliberation, Ms McMurdo has decided that while Ms Gobbo is “very unwell”, she should be able to give evidence in short bursts over the phone to accommodate her medical conditions.
“The commission is also able to control and limit any cross-examination,” Ms McMurdo said.
But the royal commissioner is still not entirely confident that Ms Gobbo will eventually give that phone evidence, ordering the release of transcripts from interactions between commission staff and Ms Gobbo as substitute evidence.
— Wednesday December 4, 2019
AFP rejected help from ‘untrustworthy’ Lawyer X
As the royal commission delves deeper into the Lawyer X scandal, it turns out Victoria Police weren’t the only ones Nicola Gobbo tried to pass information on to, as Sarah Farnsworth explains.
Federal agents didn’t trust Nicola Gobbo and knocked back her offer to pass on information about the Mokbel clan.
In a letter to the royal commission, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has revealed Ms Gobbo was willing to hand over confidential information about Tony Mokbel and his brother Horty back in 1998.
Ms Gobbo’s most prolific period of snitching was from 2005-2009, when she fed information to Victoria Police to bring down Tony Mokbel, Carl Williams and other dangerous criminals.
She said she did it for altruistic reasons and to free herself from the grip of the Mokbel clan.
But it turns out Ms Gobbo had already offered her services to two AFP officers seven years earlier, when she was acting for the two Mokbel brothers.
As the letter to the royal commission revealed, it was an offer that was kindly rejected.
“The members considered Ms Gobbo to be untrustworthy and were of the view that she was seeking to elicit information from the AFP,” the letter stated.
“The members did not contemplate using Ms Gobbo as a human source.”
The officers met with Ms Gobbo, at her request, and ended up at Melbourne’s Celtic Club until midnight, the AFP told the inquiry.
She alluded to giving them information, the letter says, but was scared people would find out she’d snitched and her house would be bugged.
In a follow-up phone call in which she sounded “tired and emotional and was having trouble coping”, Ms Gobbo again said she wanted to divulge information that “was creating a moral problem for her.”
In the end it was a “thanks but no thanks” from the AFP.
— Wednesday November 27, 2019
Hitman’s statement ‘beefed up’ after Nicola Gobbo’s prison visit
As Nicola Gobbo’s lawyers are given more time to prove she is too sick to take the stand, the royal commission hears a hitman changed a police statement to implicate Carl Williams in a gangland murder plot under Ms Gobbo’s instruction. Sarah Farnsworth has more.
What Nicola Gobbo said in confidential chats with the royal commission could be made public if she refuses to take to the stand.
Ms Gobbo had until this week to supply a sworn statement to the inquiry to back up her argument that she is too sick to show up. But she has chosen not to supply the statement.
Commissioner Margaret McMurdo has now put Ms Gobbo’s legal team on notice that she is willing to make public what the former lawyer said to commission staff in teleconferences earlier this year.
“Given Ms Gobbo, who has been legally represented throughout the life of the commission and its hearings, has had every opportunity to provide a statement without fruition, I am satisfied that the commission should now receive this material to inform itself of matters relevant,” Ms McMurdo ruled.
Earlier at the commission, a hitman’s police statement — believed destroyed — resurfaced, revealing what he was telling police about the public execution of a small-time drug dealer was significantly changed under Nicola Gobbo’s instruction.
The inquiry was toldhis original police statement was significantly altered after Ms Gobbo told police her client, who had agreed to help police, was not telling the truth.
After she visited him in prison, his version of events to police changed and drug boss Carl Williams was fully implicated in the plot.
The hitman, who cannot be named, originally said it was supposed to be a standover job to recover a $200,000 debt owed to Williams.
He told police in his original statement he provided the car and drove another man to the job.
But in his final signed statement, comments about having “a bit of an inkling” it could be a shooting were changed.
“I knew by his attitude [co-accused] and the weapons … that this was not going to be a debt collection,” the final version said.
“I was sure at this point [he] was going to be murdered.”
He also added that after the murder — which took place in a suburban street — it was his belief it had been “done exactly as Carl had asked”.
Counsel assisting, Chris Winneke QC, said it showed it was a hit ordered by Williams.
“That’s beefed it up, you accept that?” Mr Winneke asked Commander Stuart Bateson,a former member of the anti-gangland Purana Taskforce.
“I don’t know if beefed up is a right word. It certainly adds further detail,” Mr Bateson replied.
The inquiry also heard Victoria Police had still not provided 34 witness statements requested by the commission and more than 300 information reports relating to Ms Gobbo were also outstanding.
The commission is also still wading through 40,000 text messages Ms Gobbo sent to one of Tony Mokbel’s crew to work out what is relevant evidence.
— Friday November 22, 2019
Top cops to front royal commission as the inquiry probes the sanctioning of Ms Gobbo’s use
As Sarah Farnsworth reports, the pointy end of the royal commission will have a star-studded billing, including current and former commissioners from Victoria Police.
Former Victoria Police deputy commissioner Sir Ken Jones is set to return to Melbourne to front the Lawyer X royal commission — and tell all about what he knew and thought about the use of Nicola Gobbo as an informer.
The inquiry is getting to the pointy end, as Commissioner Margaret McMurdo examines senior leadership oversight of Ms Gobbo and her handlers.
It’s understood Sir Ken — a decorated UK cop — became aware of Ms Gobbo’s double agent role after the 2010 prison murder of Carl Williams, and he was not a fan of the police tactic.
He left Victoria Police after being accused of leaking police information to undermine then-chief commissioner Simon Overland, a claim he was later cleared of by the state’s anti-corruption body IBAC.
Mr Overland, who was directly involved in the decision to use the gangland lawyer and pushed for her to become a witness in a murder case, will be the commission’s star witness.
Mr Overland has now taken indefinite leave from running the Whittlesea local council ahead of testifying next month.
The top brass of Victoria Police, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton and Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius will also be grilled, along with the head of the force’s legal services, Finn McRae.
The former chief commissioner Christine Nixon — who was at the helm during Ms Gobbo’s most prolific period of snitching — will also be called to shed light on whether the green light for her use came from the very top.
— Thursday November 21, 2019
Detective rejects claim he set up Mokbel drug cook by putting him in touch with Lawyer X
A former Purana Taskforce detective has denied he was part of a conspiracy to set up one of Tony Mokbel’s ecstasy pill makers by putting him in touch with Nicola Gobbo, as Sarah Farnsworth reports.
Yesterday, a convicted criminal known only as “Mr Bickley” said a police officer suggested he use Ms Gobbo as a lawyer, which sparked a chain of events that would result in him turning against his boss.
Mr Bickley had been caught red-handed with large amounts of drugs and pill presses in a raid on a factory in 2005.
On his own admission, he’d been pressing massive amounts of MDMA for Mokbel’s drug empire.
After his arrest, he said, Detective Sergeant Paul Rowe dialled Ms Gobbo’s number and handed him the phone at St Kilda police station.
Not so, according to Sergeant Rowe, who gave evidence at the royal commission today.
He told the inquiry Ms Gobbo was called, but on Mr Bickley’s request.
“The last person I would have wanted him to have was Gobbo,” Sergeant Rowe said.
“But he insisted that he speak to her.”
He sent his colleague to find her number, Sergeant Rowe said.
“Her name was mud. She had a terrible reputation, accurately or otherwise,” he said, flatly denying Mr Bickley’s version of events.
Mr Bickley was handed a three-year wholly suspended sentence after he agreed to give evidence against Mokbel.
— Tuesday November 19, 2019
Mokbel pretended to be a brickie to get chemicals, royal commission hears
Sarah Farnsworth reports Tony Mokbel was posing as a bricklayer after sulphuric acid to clean bricks when he met a chemical shop owner.
The shop owner has told the royal commission police put him in touch with Nicola Gobbo, who then double-crossed him.
— Monday November 18, 2019
Senior cop tells royal commission Nicola Gobbo was a suspect in a number of crimes
As Sarah Farnsworth reports, Inspector Boris Buick told the royal commission Ms Gobbo was “a witness, an informer and a suspect” all at the same time.
Inspector Boris Buick was involved in Operation Driver, investigating the murder of gangland boss Carl Williams at Barwon Prison.
Williams was murdered after he had implicated former detective Paul Dale in the 2004 murders of Terence and Christine Hodson.
Nicola Gobbo was also pushed to be a witness in that case, a move she said had placed her life at risk.
Inspector Buick believed that Ms Gobbo agreed to make a statement against Mr Dale out of fear that if she didn’t, it would look like she was involved.
Previously, the inquiry heard she had been a conduit between Mr Dale and Williams.
Mr Dale has vehemently denied any involvement in the murder of the Hodsons.
“It seems a motivating factor that if she didn’t make a statement it that it might look like she was involved in that murder,” said counsel assisting, Megan Tittensor.
“Yes, I totally agree with that assertion,” Inspector Buick replied.
“She was all at once a witness, an informer and a suspect in a number of matters.”
He described it as a “minefield”.
Ms Tittensor quipped he had left the term lawyer off the list.
— Friday November 1, 2019
Nicola Gobbo believed ‘the sky was the limit’ after befriending Mick Gatto, Lawyer X inquiry told
As Sarah Farnsworth reports, the royal commission has heard Nicola Gobbo bragged to police about infiltrating underworld figure Mick Gatto’s crew, believing it would be good for business.
Nicola Gobbo met Mick Gatto following the arrest of his friend Faruk Orman in 2007, the inquiry heard today.
Her handlers would record the details of what Ms Gobbo passed on in information reports.
Nothing was too small.
“When she gave him a hug she felt a gun in his pants … tucked into the back of his pants,” handlers had recorded after one meeting.
They also noted that Ms Gobbo believed Mr Gatto was “infatuated with her” and noted it was a “golden opportunity for us”.
Mr Gatto was being investigated for two murders at the time, the inquiry was told.
After speaking with Ms Gobbo, the handlers noted she wanted to ensure Mr Gatto believed she was loyal and staunch, as he was “very well-connected” and could refer clients to her.
One handler gave an insight into Ms Gobbo’s mindset, stating she believed “the sky is the limit with him now”.
“She now has Gatto’s trust and she’ll have to be patient for the information from him and she’s confident it will come though,” the handlers noted.
Ms Gobbo also reported to her handlers that a prisoner had called Mr Gatto saying he had been offered a deal by Purana to “give up Gatto” and that “they didn’t care if it was the truth”.
All of it was put to Inspector Boris Buick, who was investigating Mr Gatto.
“That is an awful thing to say that she is going to drum up business and rat on Gatto,” Inspector Buick told the inquiry.
“That is an awful thing to say she was going to do that.”
Inspector Buick agreed it was problematic that the lawyer thought police would be okay with her touting for clients to inform on.
Inspector Buick led the murder case against Faruk Orman — whose defence was being paid for by Mr Gatto.
He told the commission he wanted Mr Orman to turn on Mr Gatto but could not remember if police asked him to “roll” on his friend.
Mr Gatto was never charged with the two murders police were investigating.
He was only charged with the 2004 murder of Andrew ‘Benji’ Veniamin, for which he was acquitted.
— Friday November 1, 2019
Police email security breach
Police have revealed they are apologising to witnesses whose identities were revealed in a mass email sent to current and former officers in an embarrassing security bungle, Sarah Farnsworth reports.
An internal email was circulated to more than 150 police and former police officers on Tuesday, revealing the names and personal email addresses of police witnesses before the inquiry.
Within the email would have been all of Nicola Gobbo’s handlers, whose identities were not widely known within the force due to the covert nature of their work.
Those men were given pseudonyms at the commission to keep their true identities a secret.
In a statement, Victoria Police said the mistake was regrettable and the email was recalled when the mistake was noticed. They were attempting to contact every person to apologise.
Somewhat ironically, the statement also said that the force’s weekly emails were intended to help support the witnesses through a stressful time.
Victoria Police statement:
Victoria Police is providing regular updates to a closed list of 104 serving and 55 veteran police members involved in the current royal commission. We do this because we are committed to supporting them through this difficult period.
Our standard practice has been to blind copy recipients on these email updates, but regrettably this did not occur on an update sent out earlier this week, and the email addresses were visible to all recipients. When the mistake was identified the email was recalled immediately.
Victoria Police has called or attempted to call every person on that list to apologise for the error and we have also changed our process to ensure it does not occur again. Whilst the error is regrettable, and we apologise unreservedly to all affected, we note that every recipient is a veteran or serving police officer, who is well aware of their obligations to protect the security of information.
— Friday October 29, 2019
Behind closed doors
Media organisations have been locked out of the Lawyer X royal commission as secret hearings are held about another lawyer who may have had dealings with police, Sarah Farnsworth reports.
It’s the latest move by Victoria Police to limit evidence being made public at the inquiry.
All that can be reported is that it is “a particular topic” about a man to be known only as “Mr McCallum” — a pseudonym to protect his identity.
Producing “confidential material”, lawyers for Victoria Police applied to ban the media from hearing police officers “Officer Black” and Inspector Boris Buick being questioned about the man.
Such is the level of secrecy, only a few lawyers were allowed into a closed hearing to decide if the court needed to be kept closed when Mr McCallum was discussed.
That means no reporters inside.
“The application concerns the grave safety of individuals,” royal commissioner Margaret McMurdo said.
A lawyer representing the ABC and other media outlets was briefly allowed into the hearing to argue for the public’s right to know, but was sworn to secrecy about what was discussed.
The media, and therefore the pubic, remain in the dark.
Only counsel assisting the royal commission and lawyers for police, the state of Victoria, and police handlers will be allowed to hear the evidence about “Mr McCallum.”
This is a public inquiry — a point Ms McMurdo has made repeatedly as Victoria Police continuously applies for suppressions and closed hearings.
As well as looking into Nicola Gobbo’s use as a police informer, the inquiry is also investigating other “human sources who are subject to legal obligations of confidentiality or privilege”.
Ms McMurdo has previously allowed the media to remain inside closed hearings to report evidence that’s not suppressed, emphasising “the desirability of holding the hearings of this commission in public wherever possible”.
But not this time.
Victoria Police’s confidential application to the commission now sits in a sealed envelope never to be opened.
Public interest immunity — or PII — is argued by police lawyers daily at the commission.
— Thursday October 24, 2019
Chief Commissioner hits back at ‘sensationalism’ after Four Corners program
Graham Ashton has used talkback radio to respond to the ABC’s Four Corners program, which aired calls for him to stand aside and face criminal charges, writes Sarah Farnsworth.
Victoria’s top cop has hit back at suggestions he should be sacked, given his knowledge of how Nicola Gobbo was being used by police back in 2006.
“I’ve always said from day one, in relation to myself, I’ve done nothing wrong,” Commissioner Graham Ashton told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.
He was responding to criticism by Victoria’s former chief crown prosecutor, Gavin Sibert QC, who believes police bosses who knew about, and sanctioned, the use of Nicola Gobbo as an informer should face criminal charges.
“The upper hierarchy of Victoria Police has to take complete responsibility,” Mr Silbert told the ABC’s Four Corners, saying Commissioner Ashton should have already been stood down, given the evidence now before the royal commission.
The chief commissioner declined to be interviewed for Four Corners and hasn’t given evidence to the inquiry yet.
But when he was asked by Mitchell to respond to Mr Silbert’s comments, he said he had no intention of resigning and would stay on until June, when his five-year contract ends.
And he was critical of what he said was unnecessary “sensationalism”.
“I’m in a position where I’ve got to respect the processes of the royal commission. And that’s a shame, that others don’t see the need to respect the processes of the royal commission. And the evidence will be put forward, and I’ve always said from day one, that in relation to myself that I’ve done nothing wrong and I maintain that position.
“And Victoria Police at the time — 15 years ago when this stuff was happening at the time, were always … trying to act in the best interests of the community. I think that some of the sensationalism around some of that commentary is just unnecessary frankly.”
Commissioner Ashton wouldn’t say when he first knew of Ms Gobbo’s role as a double agent.
But the inquiry has heard Mr Ashton first learned police were using Ms Gobbo as an informer in 2006 when he was the head of the Office of Police Integrity (OPI), the body responsible for investigating police corruption.
The evidence suggests Simon Overland, who was the deputy commissioner at the time, told Mr Ashton about it — because the OPI was planning to call the gangland lawyer to a secret hearing and there were fears that probing questions could reveal her double dealings.
The head of Victoria’s police union is also not impressed with calls for officers to face criminal charges, saying people are jumping to conclusions.
“There is a royal commission on in Victoria that is no secret. People have to let the royal commission do its job to discover what has actually occurred,” Victoria’s Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said.
As far as he’s concerned, evidence before the royal commission has simply highlighted the dedication of police officers to end the gangland war.
“People have come to work with a view to stopping crime, stopping the killing and stopping murders,” he said, and the idea people should be charged was “absolutely premature”.
“To make suggestions that people should be standing down or anything of that nature is extraordinarily premature,” he said.
— Tuesday October 22, 2019
ANALYSIS: Where does the buck stop?
As former chief prosecutor Gavin Silbert QC tells Four Corners the police bosses who knew about and authorised the use of Nicola Gobbo as a human source could face criminal charges, it is still not clear who knew what and when, writes Sarah Farnsworth.
After nearly 70 days of hearings before the Lawyer X royal commission, the buck seems to stop with Simon Overland — the then-deputy commissioner.
Evidence before the commission suggests that he knew Ms Gobbo was a police informer by 2006, and that he told the then-head of the independent Office of Police Integrity, Graham Ashton.
Upper echelons of police who were fortunate, or unfortunate as it may now seem, to be in the know about Informer 3838, have been quizzed on scribbles they’ve made in police diaries referring to “Overland” or “DC” — an abbreviation of his rank.
Only a few higher-ranking officers within “the sterile corridor” of information would have briefed Mr Overland and what was said at those meetings has at times been hard for them to recollect — it was more than a decade ago, after all.
What he was told and when he was told it is the subject of repeated lines of inquiry.
But a central question yet to be asked is: who did he tell?
Mr Overland had a boss. The woman at the helm of Victoria Police at the time was chief commissioner Christine Nixon.
Yet after months of inquiry there has been only a few fleeting references to the top boss.
Those who fell lower in the chain of command have told the royal commission they assumed the information was flowing upwards, but how far is not clear.
In March, Assistant Commissioner Neil Paterson said he assumed Ms Nixon would have known Ms Gobbo was a registered source.
“This is absolutely an assumption I make,” Assistant Commissioner Paterson said.
“Absolutely, my expectation would be that they were fully informed and making themselves aware of all the matters, providing guidance and assistance.”
The inquiry has heard that in August 2006, less than a year after Ms Gobbo was signed up for her third stint as an informer, Purana taskforce head Jim O’Brien was called to a meeting with Mr Overland, Ms Nixon, and the then-premier Steve Bracks.
What was discussed is anyone’s guess, although Mr O’Brien was keen to stress the government at the time was very happy with the results Purana was achieving — including the arrest of Tony Mokbel.
What police expected to have happened, or assumed did happen, is spoken about at length on a daily basis at the royal commission.
Current and former police officers have be scrutinised about whether they ever questioned the appropriateness of their covert dealings with Ms Gobbo.
The common answer is a variation on the Nuremberg defence — why would they question the legality of her use if their bosses knew?
So did Mr Overland’s boss — then-chief commissioner Nixon — know? And if not, why not?
The answer may became clearer when the man himself takes to the stand — which is expected to happen before the end of the year.
Ms Nixon has provided a statement to the Royal Commission, and it is expected she will also be scrutinised on the stand.
She declined to comment to the ABC today while the commission is underway.
— Monday October 21, 2019
Hit by a train or thrown under a bus? How top brass tried to get rid of Nicola Gobbo’s handlers
As Sarah Farnsworth reports from the royal commission, who is to blame for the messy saga of using Nicola Gobbo to snitch on her gangland clients is still being nutted out.
The lawyer for the police handlers who dealt directly with Nicola Gobbo, Geoffrey Chettle, has suggested police command was quick to try to distance itself from “the actions of the troops” as knowledge of the barrister’s use as a police informer leaked out.
The inquiry has heard top brass consulted human resource experts to find ways of getting rid of the handlers, before a highly confidential probe into their unit — the Source Development Unit (SDU) — was completed.
Mr Chettle has previously said the handlers were thrown under a bus, but today the analogy changed, and they were hit by a train.
“[The] upper level command in 2012 saw a train coming that was going to run into Victoria Police and steps were taken to distance themselves from what had occurred and blame it all on the SDU,” Mr Chettle told the commission.
The former boss of the unit, Tony Biggin, replied: “The train had already hit us prior to that.”
“The question of who it kills is the problem, isn’t it?” Mr Chettle retorted.
“We were hit with it in 2009 in my view,” Mr Biggin said, referring to when Ms Gobbo became a police witness — a move he’d fought against, as it risked exposing her duplicitous role.
It’s been suggested the force was so keen to shut down the unit, and to have a legitimate reason for doing so, that the scope of an internal report was changed to make the case.
In the end, the SDU was disbanded in 2013 after a separate review by former chief commissioner Neil Comrie, that according to Mr Chettle made out the handlers had “gone rogue”.
It should be noted the review was instigated by then-assistant commissioner Jeff Pope — also a former handler of Ms Gobbo’s, who she sensationally claimed she had a sexual relationship with.
— Friday October 11, 2019
Former superintendent says he thought sounding alarm was ‘career-limiting’ move
As Sarah Farnsworth writes from inside the royal commission, the-then head of the Victoria Police unit managing Nicola Gobbo’s informing thought telling Simon Overland of his concerns in 2008 would be bad for his career — but it did not stop him.
Tony Biggin thought it would be “career-limiting” to tell his bosses he didn’t agree with their plans when it came to using Nicola Gobbo — but he did it anyway.
The royal commission has heard that in 2008, the then-head of Victoria Police’s Source Development Unit shared his concerns with the then-assistant commissioner Simon Overland, who would go on to lead the force.
Mr Biggin told Mr Overland the worst-case scenario was Ms Gobbo would be killed if she was used as a witness as police tried to solve the murder of Terence Hodson and his wife, Christine.
But he also thought the convictions of serious criminals could be in jeopardy if her use as a human source was exposed.
After speaking to Mr Overland, Mr Biggin put his concerns in writing so there was a record, in case it all went completely pear-shaped.
Ultimately his concerns were ignored.
Mr Biggin told the inquiry he decided it was his place to speak up, as any younger handler with shiny career prospects could end up with a black mark against their name.
Speaking candidly about his old boss, former chief commissioner Christine Nixon, Mr Biggin said the cultural change she was trying to bring in — moving away from the old “militaristic mentality” of doing as you’re told — was slow to take hold.
While he praised her first five years at the helm, he also told he commission he thought her last three years in the job “were three years too long”.
— Thursday October 10, 2019
Will she or won’t she give evidence?
As Commissioner Margaret McMurdo refuses to excuse Nicola Gobbo from giving evidence at the royal commission, Sarah Farnsworth has this analysis from inside the hearings.
Whether the commission will finally hear from Nicola Gobbo in person remains up in the air.
Her medical specialists say she is too sick to attend but Commissioner Margaret McMurdo isn’t totally convinced that won’t change by the end of the year.
Several psychiatric reports are now before the inquiry, but there is no definitive answer as to whether she is mentally well enough to be interrogated for what is likely to be days and days of arduous questioning.
It’s been accepted Ms Gobbo has PTSD, a major depressive disorder, and acute stress.
One report states Ms Gobbo is very angry with Victoria Police, feels desperate, hopeless and fears for her life and has nowhere to turn for help.
Her life is also at risk — given the multitude of serious criminals, some in prison, some not, who are now acutely aware she liked to inform cops about their criminals ways.
But does that mean she can’t safely give evidence over the phone as has been organised and does it really matter?
A somewhat frustrated Commissioner appears hopeful she will eventually be well enough to tell her side of the story.
Ms Gobbo has also been asked to finally produce a sworn statement that was first requested in February.
In the end, the commission can dissect hundreds of hours of recordings of Ms Gobbo chatting with her police handlers, to try and work out how many convictions she’s tainted.
But just what her real motivation was in the first place could remain a mystery.
— Friday October 4, 2019
Tony Mokbel tried to broker deal with police, commission hears
As the royal commission continues to focus on how police used Nicola Gobbo during the gangland war, we’re told drug kingpin Tony Mokbel tried to negotiate a deal with police.
His plan — which he outlined to police during a meeting at a park — came as pressure on Mokbel’s drug cartel mounted, with many of his associates before the courts.
Mokbel tells the police three of his associates would be willing to go to jail if it would end the drug war.
Reporter Sarah Farnsworth has dug through the transcripts of that conversation for your reading pleasure here.
— Wednesday September 11, 2019
Tony Mokbel ‘cried continually’ in jail after his Athens arrest
It was a 40-minute phone call with Tony Mokbel that left his lawyer Nicola Gobbo upset.
He was in custody after being arrested at an Athens cafe in 2007, his toupee disguise not enough to avoid detection.
The royal commission hears Mokbel’s lawyer, Nicola Gobbo, who was secretly working as a police informer, told her handlers he was “not handling jail well, continually crying”.
The details of the conversation come after more revelations about Mokbel as the commission focuses on how police used Ms Gobbo during Melbourne’s infamous gangland war.
Last week, the commission was told police missed a tip-off about Mokbel before he fled to Greece.
— Tuesday September 10, 2019
Nicola Gobbo secretly edited statements of gangland witness, commission hears
The commission hears Nicola Gobbo bragged about going to the offices of the Purana Taskforce and secretly editing all the statements made by a gangland hitman whose evidence was pivotal in numerous gangland trials.
The commission was told the transcript of the taped conversation she had with her handlers only emerged on Monday morning.
“I corrected them but no one ever knows about that, that would never come out, even [he] doesn’t know I did,” Ms Gobbo said in August 2008.
The revelation has cast further doubt on many gangland convictions. The hitman made more than a dozen statements.
The former head of the Purana Taskforce, Jim O’Brien, denied any knowledge of the plan when questioned at the royal commission.
It comes after the commission heard Ms Gobbo broke into the chambers of a fellow barrister in June 2007.
— Monday September 9, 2019
Rape and death threats against Nicola Gobbo revealed
The former head of a police taskforce which investigated an infamous double-murder believes barrister Nicola Gobbo became a police informer because she felt guilt over the deaths.
Gavan Ryan was the head of the Petra Taskforce which was set up to find out who killed Terence and Christine Hodson in their Kew home in 2004.
The Hodsons were shot dead not long after Terence agreed to give evidence against two police officers, Paul Dale and David Miechel, who were his co-accused in the 2003 burglary of a drug house in Oakleigh.
Terence Hodson and David Miechel were arrested on the night $1.3 million was stolen from the Dublin Street drug den, but Hodson later implicated Mr Dale, agreeing to give evidence against him.
It emerged shortly after that a police file containing the Hodsons’ home address had made its way into the criminal underworld prior to their deaths.
Miechel, who fought the charges, was found guilty over the burglary and sentenced to 12 years’ jail.
However, the charges against Mr Dale were dropped after Terence Hodson was killed.
Mr Dale has always denied any involvement in the Dublin Street burglary.
Mr Ryan told the royal commission he’d always suspected Ms Gobbo’s decision to become an informer was linked to the murders.
Mr Ryan’s self-described “hunch” conflicts with transcripts of conversations Ms Gobbo had with police in 2005 which indicated she was motivated to become an informer because she wanted to help bring down the Mokbel drug cartel.
The murder charge against Mr Dale was dropped after Carl Williams was bludgeoned to death in Barwon Prison in 2010.
Mr Dale has always denied any involvement in the Hodson murders, and recently told the royal commission he was set up.
No-one else has ever been charged over the Hodson murders which remains unsolved.
— Wednesday August 14, 2019
Cop predicted Gobbo’s murder ‘inevitable’ after death threats
A document tendered to the Lawyer X royal commission lists 14 threats, including death threats, made against Ms Gobbo, between 2006 and 2008.
One entry, from August 2006, refers to Roberta Williams, the wife of crime boss Carl Williams.
“Milad Mokbel told Gobbo that Roberta Williams is going to bash her,” Ms Gobbo’s police handlers reported.
Gavan Ryan, a senior police officer who investigated the gangland war, told the commission he “thought it was inevitable she would be killed”.
— Friday August 9, 2019
Gobbo fed tomato tin ecstasy bust shipping papers to police
A secret recording, from June 5, 2007, shows Ms Gobbo provided crucial information that allowed police to uncover the world’s largest ecstasy haul — the now infamous tomato tin drug bust.
During the conversation with two police officers, Ms Gobbo handed them shipping documents that identified the container carrying 15 million ecstasy pills, worth about half a billion dollars, hidden in tins of tomato paste being imported from Italy.
Police officer: We can have these?
Nicola Gobbo: This is your copy.
Police officer: Neat
She got the documents, known as a bill of lading, from a client named Rob Karam who was later convicted of importing the drugs.
He’s now planning to appeal against his 35-year sentence on the grounds Ms Gobbo’s involvement denied him a fair trial.
The operation also netted a series of major crime figures including Pasquale Barbaro and John Higgs. Both men have legal representatives at the Lawyer X royal commission and may also appeal against their convictions.
— Thursday August 8, 2019
The tapes Victoria Police didn’t want you to hear, released
Secret tapes from 2006 show Ms Gobbo was angry with police for compromising her safety early in her most productive period as an informer.
The conversation is one of many police recorded as Ms Gobbo lifted the lid on her underworld clients.
Victoria Police tried to restrict media access to the tapes, arguing the identities of the police officers, from the secretive Source Development Unit, who met with Ms Gobbo might be revealed.
It called on the commission to alter the sound of the police officers on the tapes before releasing them, but the commissioner Margaret McMurdo ruled the tapes should be released as recorded.
In those tapes Ms Gobbo told her police handlers about an allegedly corrupt officer taking money from one of her clients.
— Tuesday August 6, 2019
Police ‘sorry’ for delayed documents despite locating many of them months ago
Victoria Police apologised to commission for failing to deliver documents on time, but revealed it was still holding thousand of items that are months overdue.
The commission issued official notices ordering Victoria Police to produce relevant emails and documents in January.
More than six months later, Victoria Police has not fully complied.
The commission said the cross-examination of witnesses was being hampered by material arriving only hours before those witnesses were due to take the stand, or in some cases after they finished giving evidence.
Senior counsel for Victoria Police, Saul Holt QC, told the commission the force’s tardiness was not deliberate.
“It’s not driven by any desire to slow the work of the royal commission,” Mr Holt said.
The commissioner, Margaret McMurdo, said her staff had examined the metadata embedded in hundreds of documents delivered at the end of July and found police had located them in April.
She said the delay in sending them made the commission’s work “extremely difficult”.
— Friday August 2, 2019
Cop admits relationship was ‘a disaster’
The commission hears a secretly recorded conversation between Ms Gobbo and two police officers who were assessing her suitability as a source.
Ms Gobbo told the officers she was living in fear of her client, drug kingpin Tony Mokbel and his associates, during the phone call recorded in September 2005.
At one point, an officer suggested to Ms Gobbo if she continued to work with the Mokbels it could only end in one of two ways.
“Death or jail,” she said, guessing his meaning.
The officer, who is no longer with Victoria Police, gave evidence using the pseudonym Sandy White.
He denied that by raising the possibility she would be killed he was pressuring her into working against the Mokbels.
He said he genuinely believed she was in great danger if she continued her relationship with the family.
“I have no doubt that the Mokbels had capabilities to kill people. She was in fear of them already. It’s not such a stretch to think she would have been killed if she didn’t do what they wanted,” Mr White said.
After her status as a police informant leaked to the underworld, and internal police risk assessment found she was highly likely to be killed.
Mr White agreed that in hindsight Ms Gobbo’s recruitment had not worked out well.
“I think the relationship with Victoria Police has been a disaster for her,” Mr White said.
— Thursday August 1, 2019
Taped phone call reveals police lied to Nicola Gobbo
The commission heard police lied to Ms Gobbo in one of the first conversations she had as an informer.
In one of the tapes played to the commission, Ms Gobbo asks an officer from the secretive police squad, the Source Development Unit, whether the conversation is being recorded.
Nicola Gobbo: Before we start, before you say anything else, is this being recorded?
Officer ‘Sandy White’: It’s not, but I’m about to start a recorder.
Nicola Gobbo: Well, I’m very concerned about that but —
Sandy White: Yeah. No, you tell me — before I start then, you tell me what your concerns are and I’ll see if I can allay ’em for you.
Nicola Gobbo: Okay. Once something’s recorded, it’s there.
Sandy White: Mm.
Nicola Gobbo: It’s somewhere.
Sandy White: Yep.
— Wednesday July 31, 2019
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