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Australia Drug trafficker fighting ecstasy-in-tomato-tins conviction over Nicola Gobbo's involvement

10:07  22 september  2020
10:07  22 september  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Major drug trafficker Saverio Zirilli was the victim of a fraud committed by police and to spend another day behind bars would be an injustice, his lawyer argues. Zirilli is serving a 26 year prison sentence after admitting he was involved in major ecstasy imports and an attempt to bring cocaine to Australia.

A convicted drug trafficker who was busted with the help of Nicola Gobbo has had his petition for mercy Jan Visser was jailed for 11 years over a plot to import 15 million ecstasy pills in tomato tins from Italy He's seeking leave to appeal on the basis of Ms Gobbo ' s involvement in the drug bust

Part of the shipment of ecstasy tablets, which weighed more than 4.4 tonnes and was shipped from Italy to Melbourne in 2007. (Supplied) © Provided by ABC NEWS Part of the shipment of ecstasy tablets, which weighed more than 4.4 tonnes and was shipped from Italy to Melbourne in 2007. (Supplied)

The lawyer for a drug trafficker jailed over a massive haul of ecstasy pills hidden in tomato tins has told a court his client's conviction should be overturned because the entire case was built on the "treachery" of lawyer-turned-police informant Nicola Gobbo.

In 2012, Saverio Zirilli was sentenced to 26 years in jail with a minimum term of 18 years.

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A secret recording shows gangland lawyer Nicola Gobbo provided crucial information that allowed police to uncover the world's largest ecstasy haul. The June 5, 2007 recording, played to the Lawyer X royal commission, shows Ms Gobbo ' s intimate involvement in the now-infamous tomato tin drug

Ms Gobbo played a critical role in the tomato tin ecstasy bust. The drugs were found packed in more than 3,000 tomato tins in a shipping container. Ms Gobbo said her client, drug trafficker Rob Karam, had given her "a bill of lading" (a detailed list of a ship' s cargo) for safekeeping during a coffee

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic $122 million worth of ecstasy pills hidden in tins labelled "peeled tomatoes" from Italy.

At the time, it was the biggest ecstasy seizure in the world.

Zirilli also admitted to trafficking 1.2 million MDMA tablets and attempting to possess almost 100 kilograms of pure cocaine shipped from Colombia amongst bags of coffee beans.

Zirilli, who was represented by Ms Gobbo during an early bail hearing in the case, has applied to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal his conviction and sentence due to Ms Gobbo's involvement.

Gobbo identified 'Italians from Griffith', commission heard

Last year, Victoria's Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants heard Ms Gobbo tipped off police about the tomato-tins importation.

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Nicola Gobbo defends her version of events under intense cross-examination during her fifth and final day of Nicola Gobbo has been giving evidence to the royal commission over video-link from a secret location. He's also in line to quiz Ms Gobbo . Rishi Nathwani: Mr Nathwani is Ms Gobbo ' s lawyer

A man jailed over a major ecstasy bust police sniffed out through lawyer Nicola Gobbo has blasted delays in his appeal as "ridiculous". Jan Visser will be eligible for parole in eight months after serving seven years for his part in what was the world' s biggest import of ecstasy in 2007.

She also told police "Italians from Griffith" — Zirilli and co-convicted Pasquale Barbaro — were staying at a hotel in Melbourne, Zirilli's lawyer Mark Gumbleton said.

"Nobody had any idea about this person [Zirilli] from Griffith who had no prior conviction," Mr Gumbleton told the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.

"Everything followed from her identification of Mr Zirilli."

He told the court Ms Gobbo later successfully applied for bail on Zirilli's behalf and provided his mobile number to her police handlers.

"A member of counsel was enlisted to perform the role of an undercover agent," Mr Gumbleton said.

"If ever there was an exceptional case, this is it."

He said the entire case against his client was because of Ms Gobbo's "treachery" and Zirilli would not have pleaded guilty had he known.

"The plea that the applicant entered was based on fraud," he said.

"The first thing we would have said to the director [is], 'It's all over.'"

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The ecstasy was hidden in tomato tins . Saverio Zirilli, who was jailed for up to 26 years over the plot, is the latest to appeal his conviction because of the It' s been conceded information received from Ms Gobbo was provided to customs and border officials by police, leading to the discovery of the drugs .

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'Only remedy' is an overturned conviction, lawyer argues

Zirilli appeared by videolink from Loddon Prison at Castlemaine in central Victoria.

Mr Gumbleton urged the court to immediately release his client on bail because it would take at least a year to prepare for the appeal hearing.

"This is such an egregious breach of the court's independence and processes … how could the director possibly stand in the way of the appeal being granted?"

"These are uncharted waters" because a criminal barrister can never be an agent of the state, Mr Gumbleton said.

"This should never have happened and if we all agree with that, what's the remedy?" he said.

"The only remedy was a permanent stay [of prosecution]."

The court reserved its decision on Zirilli's application for bail and leave to appeal his conviction.

Other trafficking convictions facing challenge

Victoria's Supreme Court heard Zirilli was the "right-hand man and trusted lieutenant" of drug kingpin Barbaro, who is also appealing against his conviction.

Barbaro was sentenced to life with a non-parole period of 30 years.

Several other crime figures were also jailed over the tomato-tin haul, including Rob Karam and John Higgs.

Victoria's Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants heard Karam gave his lawyer Ms Gobbo shipping documents which she passed on to police.

Karam is serving a 35-year sentence for drug trafficking.

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