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PNG cocaine bust: Italian police say Mafia so entrenched in Australian politics and business it is impossible to stamp out

PNG cocaine bust: Australia is a “state of Italy”

Italian police have now classed the mafia in Australia as so entrenched, they believe it would be impossible to stamp out completely with Australian police only able to make busts where they can.

First published February, 2016

by Charles Miranda

ITALIAN police have carried out a series of raids to smash a Mafia-led operation to smuggle cocaine to Australia that police say godfathers have now divided into six zones for trafficking drugs, extortion and money laundering.

And such is the entrenchment of Mafia links to Australia now, authorities say the country is virtually a state of Italy and it would be impossible to ever wipe out.

Authorities have uncovered a treasure trove of intelligence related to the fearsome Calabrian-based ’ Ndrangheta mafia group and their operations in Australia including members’ infiltration of key areas to assist in their trade, including transport and politics.

The police operation last week with raids on more than a dozen homes in Calabria has seen 14 members of clans linked to ’Ndrangheta arrested and charged with “criminal association linked to international drugs tracking”, namely to Australia and Canada.

One of eight refused bail is a police officer tasked with protection of a port but instead was allegedly providing guidance on evading controls and security for drug shipments.

Leading Melbourne mafia figure Rocco Arico was jailed in 2017 for drugs, extortion and weapons offences

The case was the culmination of five years of work by the Central Operational Service of the Italian National Police, a specialist Italian police squad from Calabria and the district’s Anti-Mafia Prosecutor’s Office.

Despite the success of arrests and uncovering intelligence on international operations through extensive listening devices, taps and surveillance, it may not assist the overall ’Ndrangheta crime fight in      Australia.

Italian police have now classed the mafia in Australia as so entrenched, they believe it would be impossible to stamp out completely with Australian police only able to make busts where they can.

“Australia is not a target nation any more, it’s now like a state of Italy from a criminal perspective,” a senior Italian officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told News Corp Australia.

“They are entrenched in their activities and have been for a long time. They have not got an expansion strategy with your country any more, it’s not expansion, it’s consolidation. Australia, Canada, Belgium, United States, Germany are all countries where these crimes are being consolidated.”

’Ndrangheta work as “strictly a family-based enterprise, affiliation having to be through blood relation”.

According to evidence gathered by authorities, the group had designated six “locales” in Australia for Calabrian-linked mafia, not necessarily by state but by powerbase for extended family support and drug importation markets as well as large-scale construction contracts, paying of backhanders and racketeering. Each locale has its own mob boss that reports directly to Italy

Former WA mayor faces accusations he led mafia cell

Court documents from ongoing proceedings in Italy also show Italian prosecutors allege Tony Vallelonga, who is the former mayor of Stirling in Perth, is the local leader of a mafia cell in Perth.

Court files allege that Mr Vallelonga is responsible for “making the most important decisions, imparting orders or imposing sanctions on other subordinate associates”.

The files allege Mr Vallelonga was concerned about a rival who wanted to start his own cell on Mr Vallelonga’s turf with the approval of Calabrian bosses.

det-sup-matt-warren

Photo: Detective-Superintendent Matt Warren said the mafia was robust and difficult to defeat. (ABC)

Mr Vallelonga was allegedly recorded in an Italian laundromat recounting a conversation with his competitor where he allegedly said: “As long as I’m alive, you don’t get a locale [local mafia cell] … and that’s that!”

To which his rival responded: “You can’t be the man any more … enough!”

It comes after the prosecutors sought to question Mr Vallelonga over his dealings in Calabria with a notorious mafia boss.

Mr Valleonga has always denied the allegations and in a statement sent to the ABC, Mr Vallelonga’s lawyer said any allegation the former mayor had ever been involved in criminal activity was “completely without any foundation”.

Outside of the political arena, Italian police have identified another Australian allegedly working in Calabria who is part of the influential Alvaro family.

Some members of the family were recently subjects of an international anti-mafia operation when authorities seized tonnes of cocaine and made dozens of arrests.

Confidential Italian and Australian police files state that the Alvaro clan has arms in Australia.

They are allegedly headed by Adelaide construction figure Paul Alvaro, 64, and a New South Wales man.

The pair are among figures around the country, including in Griffith, New South Wales.

A police assessment said the individuals operate as “an executive board of directors” for the Calabrian Mafia.

Malcolm Turnbull lunched with slain lawyer Joseph Acquaro

The Telegraph May 22, 2016 9:00pm

 Election 2016: Wrap up on week 2

MALCOLM Turnbull unwittingly had lunch with self-professed mafia front man Joseph Acquaro, who years later was shot dead outside his Brunswick East ice-cream parlour.

The Herald Sun can confirm Mr Acquaro joined the then Opposition Leader at a fundraising lunch for Liberal MP Russell Broadbent at Box restaurant in Collins St in late 2008. Others present included fruit mogul Tony Madafferi, brother of jailed drug trafficker Frank Madafferi, and Joe Mirabella, of Mirabella lighting.

Mr Acquaro told the Herald Sun, just months before his execution, that he had spent decades “lobbying’’ politicians for the mafia and other businessmen. He said he had met with Mr Turnbull in 2008, at a lunch organised by Mr Broadbent. He said he lobbied both sides of politics on behalf of Calabrian businessmen including Tony Madafferi, who was a well-known donor to the Liberal Party.

The mob lawyer, who in 2015 became aware he had an alleged $200,000 contract on his life, was gunned down on the footpath near his ice-cream parlour. He was shot five times by an unknown assassin.

He had spoken to the Herald Sun several times in the months leading up to his death, and said the meeting with Mr Madafferi and Mr Turnbull had occurred in Melbourne’s parliamentary precinct.

Joe Acquaro was found dead in St Phillip St in a targeted execution in Brunswick East. Picture: Nicole Garmston
Murdered gangland lawyer Joe Acquaro. Picture: Supplied

The Herald Sun does not suggest there was anything improper in these meetings. But in the middle of an election campaign, the revelations will again bring scrutiny to the vexed issue of political donations, and what access donors can get to politicians.

Mr Turnbull’s spokesman said the Prime Minister remembered the lunch, but not the guests’ names.

“The Prime Minister recalls attending a fundraiser lunch for Russell Broadbent in Melbourne in 2008 with a number of Mr Broadbent’s local supporters,’’ the spokesman said.

“The Prime Minister does not recall the names of Mr Broadbent’s guests.

“As far as Joe Mirabella is concerned, the Prime Minister does recall meeting him while Environment Minister in 2007 in the context of the Howard government’s decision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by switching away from energy inefficient incandescent bulbs.

“The Prime Minister does not recall the names of any other associates of Mr Mirabella.’’

Mr Broadbent, who confirmed Mr Madafferi had made political donations, initially told the Herald Sun he could not recall “specific meetings between Joe (Acquaro) and any senior person.’’

“Look, I’m sure there’s been lots of meetings that Mr Turnbull has attended with lots of people, and I wouldn’t have any comment on that at all,’’ he said.

“I don’t want to make any comment on Joe. I think it’s an absolute tragedy that he’s died. I think it’s very, very sad.’’

But on Sunday he confirmed that he did in fact recall the lunch, at the restaurant Box on Collins.

He confirmed Mr Acquaro, Mr Madafferi and Mr Mirabella attended.

“Joe Mirabella pulled this one together,’’ he said.

Mr Broadbent said he had a “standing situation’’ with Mr Turnbull that would see the Opposition Leader attend a fundraising lunch if he had the time when in Melbourne.

“He did it a number of times,’’ he said.

“Malcolm knew Joe (Mirabella), he’d previously met Joe.’’

Asked to describe his relationship with Mr Madafferi, Mr Broadbent replied: “He’s a donor and we have been friendly for a long period of time.

“I take people as I see them.’’

Mr Broadbent said he “hadn’t done anything wrong’’ and resented the implication that he had by attending Liberal Party fundraisers.

“I haven’t seen him (Mr Acquaro) for a long time.

“The association I had with him, he was another personality in the crowds.’’

In 2014, Tony Madafferi would be excluded from Crown Casino by then police chief commissioner Ken Lay, and the following year he would be approached by organised crime taskforce detectives about an alleged contract on Mr Acquaro’s life.

Tony Madafferi and Russell Broadbent.

Documents and photographs obtained by the Herald Sun expose the extent of Mr Acquaro and Tony Madafferi’s political connections.

Mr Acquaro, however, had said those connections were severed after he had a bitter fallout with the Madafferi brother three years ago.

In several pictures, taken by Mr Acquaro on the day of the federal Budget in either 2005 or 2006, Toni Madafferi and another Calabrian businessmen are seated in the Member’s Dining Room in Parliament House in Canberra with Mr Broadbent, and in another photograph, now-Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

Tony Madafferi and Greg Hunt.

Mr Hunt has previously said he had been introduced to Tony Madafferi a decade ago but had no contact with him for about six years.

Tony Madafferi, and uncle Vince Madafferi, are in the photos.

“They came to lunch that day. I didn’t know they were in the building. They arrived unannounced in my office with Lou Gazzola who is a highly respected former chairman of the Victorian Vegetable Growers Association,’’ Mr Broadbent said.

“I have a long-time relationship with the Italian community because I was born at Koo Wee Rup.

“Of course I would offer any hospitality to Lou and the people with him.’’

Mr Acquaro, the former president of the Italian Chamber of Commerce, claimed he was the link for Tony Madafferi to gain political influence.

A series of letters, obtained by the Herald Sun, also reveals Mr Acquaro lobbied Liberal MPs on behalf of Mr Madafferi and other Calabrian businessmen.

In 2003, he wrote to Adam Joseph, a staff member for Liberal senator Marise Payne, as he worked towards getting Frank Madafferi’s deportation order overturned.

Frank Madafferi was refused a renewed residency visa on character grounds, but the then immigration minister, Amanda Vanstone, revoked the order on humanitarian grounds after she was lobbied by some of her colleagues, including Mr Broadbent.

Former senator Amanda Vanstone.

The incident was investigated by the Australian Federal Police who probed at least three federal Liberal MPs, with the corruption inquiry finding there was insufficient evidence that the donors had influenced the MPs.

Frank Madafferi was later convicted for his part in a mafia syndicate that imported the world’s biggest ecstasy haul in 2008. He will be deported when his jail term expires.