Dangerous liaisons: Lawyer X’s sexual affairs

EXCLUSIVE: Supergrass Lawyer X’s sexual affairs with criminals who were clients have been flagged in a top secret report.

Justice Murray Kellam, QC, highlighted the “intimate relationships” between Lawyer X and those she informed on in his Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission inquiry report, suppressed since 2015.

The Kellam report, which the Herald Sun has now seen, also reveals that Lawyer X handed police a shipping manifest for 15 million ecstasy pills hidden in a consignment of tomato tins bound for Australia.

The shipping document, which she told officers she had covertly copied from client and Tomato Tins syndicate member Rob Karam, triggered the 2007 ecstasy bust, then the world’s biggest ever.

Commenting on the sexual affairs of Law­yer X in his IBAC report, Justice Kellam noted: “It is apparent that the provenance of the intelligence provided was often convoluted and/or not stated, due to identified complex and sometimes alleged intimate relationships with clients, communal interaction with a number of clients, social association with criminals and police and … provision of legal advice outside usual professional business settings.”

 

Lawyer X explained

Lawyer X explained

 

Former chief commissioner Simon Overland.

Former chief commissioner Simon Overland.

In his own evidence to the inquiry, former police chief commissioner Simon Overland also said “that it was sometimes difficult to discern the exact circumstances in which (the Source) had come into possession of information … because of the (Source’s) own blurred lines of professional conduct with respect to … clients”.

Lawyer X’s numerous affairs with criminals, police and legal colleagues were widely known, including by her police handlers.

A royal commission into the police scheme in which the female barrister informed on dozens of her clients is expected to canvass the ethical conflicts they raise.

Former detective Paul Dale told the Australian Crime Commission in 2008 that he had an affair with Lawyer X, which she denied.

Former detective Paul Dale.

Former detective Paul Dale.

 

Tony Mokbel’s methamphetamine cook denied, in open court in 2011, that he had bought Lawyer X a $35,000 diamond engagement ring.

Lawyer X, herself, told the Herald Sun in 2014 that she had slept with a police officer who later had oversight of her informer role. That officer denies that they had ever had a sexual relationship.

The father of her daughter is also believed to be drug trafficker.

The Kellam inquiry began due to the Herald Sun’s exposes on the secret informer. But when it was completed in 2015, only a brief summary of its findings was released.

Today, the Herald Sun can reveal more detail, including:

LAWYER X maintained daily contact with one of her six handlers during her registered informing from 2005 to 2009;

SHE acted beyond the instructions of her handlers;

VICTORIA Police hid information from the Australian Federal Police because they feared her identity would leak;

POLICE informing processes were found to be flawed and inconsistent; and

LAWYER X was given specific jobs, including obtaining names of criminal associates and providing phone numbers. It is understood that once they had the numbers, detectives would tap the phones.

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Lawyer X’s role in the Tomato Tins ecstasy bust is outlined in the IBAC report.

“The container has 15 million pills in it,” Lawyer X told her handlers.

She gave officers the document, a bill of lading, three weeks before the MV Monica arrived at Melbourne’s docks.

“On 5 June, 2007, HS3838 (Lawyer X) provided Victoria Police with a copy of Italian shipping documents relating to a shipping container that was believed to be in transit to Melbourne,” Justice Kellam said.

“HS3838 advised that HS3838 was provided the documents by Karam, who asked HS3838 to hold the documents for him so he could give them to Joe Mannella.”

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Lawyer X told her police handlers she was confident that Karam would not suspect her over the sting.

A police information report detailed in the Kellam report states: “3838 confident there is nothing suspicious there about how (the Source) came to copy them. KARAM won’t be suspicious of (the Source) … TASKING: Try and find out if container has swapped ships.”

A confidential police information report also states Lawyer X told her handlers: “Karam is very confident, because he has beaten two trials previously; he believes that nothing can happen to him.”

The Kellam report reveals that after Victoria Police received a copy of the bill of lading, it chose not to directly inform the federal police. Instead it contacted Customs, which liaised with the AFP.

The Herald Sun has learned the subterfuge was to keep Lawyer X’s identity, which it was feared could leak, a secret.

 

TOMATO TIN SYNDICATE NEVER SUSPECTED TRUE LEAK SOURCE

Fifteen million ecstasy pills, many stamped with kangaroo logos, were stranded in tomato tins on the Melbourne docks. Drug syndicate ringleaders raged and panicked: Were the police on to them?

They were a cutthroat bunch, headed by the Australian arm of the Calabrian mafia. Revenge and retribution, beatings and bodies, were occupational hazards.

 

Rob Karam.

Rob Karam.

 

A syndicate ringleader, veteran criminal and bikie club founder John Higgs blamed one of Mick Gatto’s mates, Fedele D’Amico, for the shipment being seized. As a covert recording revealed, Higgs wanted to wrap D’Amico in carpet and throw him in a river.

Higgs was right to be concerned – surveillance by three different arms of law enforcement meant that authorities pretty much knew whenever he went to the toilet.

Yet his ire was misdirected. He and the other 31 syndicate members never suspected the true source of their betrayal until long after they were arrested.

Lawyer X represented some members of the syndicate, including Rob Karam, the Crown casino high roller whose luck had long extended past the gaming tables. Karam, whose low public profile never matched his criminal grandiosity, kept being charged over massive amounts of drugs. And he kept getting off.

Lawyer X dined with Tomato Tins members, and close observers say she slept with some of them, too.

According to the top-secret Kellam Report, the document that led to the High Court’s damning indictment of Victoria Police’s use of Lawyer X as an informer, she betrayed
them, too.

Their audacious Tomato Tins shipment, the largest ecstasy haul in history, was doomed before it arrived in Australia in June 2007.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission report, headed by Murray Kellam, QC, was triggered by Herald Sun revelations about Lawyer X’s use as a police informer in March 2014.

The report shows how Lawyer X set out to snare some of Australia’s most hardened bastards who feared not only the loss of tens of millions of dollars but jail terms stretching into old age.

She was not frightened by the high stakes, at least as her critical role is presented in police information reports from the time.

Lawyer X appeared to believe she had a perfect cover.

As a lawyer, no one – including her clients – doubted her ethical obligation to those clients. She was the ultimate tool to infiltrate the Mafia-led conspiracy: Hidden and in plain sight.

The tomato tins shipment.

The tomato tins shipment.

 

Lawyer X was in daily contact with six police handlers over years of informing.

In November 2005, Lawyer X asserted that a lawyer acting as an informer posed no legal or ethical issues.

In the Tomato Tins case, her police handlers assigned her specific intelligence to gather.

She was an enthusiastic secret weapon; sometimes, the informer asked her handlers what she could do next.

“3838 (her police informer number) said it would be easy for (3838) to speak to KARAM about the containers …” reads an information report that then sets Lawyer X a new job.

“3838 very confident (3838) could talk to KARAM about it without bringing suspicion. TASKING: 3838 tasked to speak to KARAM and find out who is involved, what phone numbers used and the name of the freight forwarder.”

She gave the police a copy of the Bill of Lading, or cargo manifest, three weeks before the MV Monica, which shipped the drugs, docked in Melbourne.

It was a breakthrough moment in the police sting.

The Bill of Lading document, which acts as proof of ownership, denoted a shipping container known as MEDU1250218.

This container contained more than 3000 tomato tins filled with ecstasy pills. Some tins were filled with gravel so the consignment assumed the same weight as tins filled with actual tomatoes.

According to protected police documents, Lawyer X was provided the Bill of Lading by Karam, who asked her to mind it before he passed it on to a freight forwarder, Joe Mannella. It appears unclear how Mannella could be involved given he was thought to have been in jail at the time.

Lawyer X’s passing of the Bill of Lading to police is considered the most crucial development in a long chain of events that led to 32 men receiving almost three centuries’ worth of prison time. A police information report cited in the Kellam Report sounds routine: “KARAM won’t be suspicious of (3838). He did not notice when (3838) went upstairs and copied them (documents).”

Customs seized the container with the drugs almost as soon as the container arrived in Melbourne. The drugs were removed and a lengthy operation began involving the Australian Federal Police.

The ecstasy pills were hidden in tomato tins.

The ecstasy pills were hidden in tomato tins.

Protected police documents suggest that Victoria Police, at least for some time, shielded the existence of Lawyer X from the AFP to protect her identity.

Former police chief commissioner Simon Overland gave evidence to the Kellam Inquiry, which spoke of the complex origins of Lawyer X’s intelligence.

Alleged intimate relationships with clients, social activities with clients and the providing of legal advice outside of usual settings muddled the usual professional boundaries.

She has elsewhere referred to “thousands of hours of recorded conversations …”

One highly placed observer has referred to her using a wire in a hairpin during intimate encounters.

Overland told the inquiry “that it was sometimes difficult to discern the exact circumstances in which (3838) had come into possession of information … because of (3838’s) own blurred lines of professional conduct with respect to … clients”.

Lawyer X, the Kellam Report suggests, believed her cover was almost bulletproof.

She turned up to represent clients when the Tomato Tins syndicate was arrested.

She advised Mafia boss Pat Barbaro for bail applications and represented Karam through subsequent court processes.

In an appeal affidavit, Karam seeks to have his conviction overturned because his lawyer was also a police informer. In his bid, considered a test case for others to follow, he admits that he once considered Lawyer X a friend and did not question her loyalty.

A police information report in the Kellam Report appears to show that Lawyer X relied upon Karam’s implicit trust in her and lawyer/client privilege: “3838 believes that KARAM would think that 3838 simply couldn’t tell anybody about what he tells (3838).”

 

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