It was reported in the Age on Saturday 13th June 1992: Allegations by a man known variously as Stuart Gill or Anthony Adam Zoccoli, were reported detailing widespread corruption in the Victoria Police. The Age gave his name as ‘Mr. Fixit’.
He was a self-styled computer expert and ‘law clerk’ who formed a link between corrupt Police and criminals. He used these links to make a profit for himself. This he did in the early 1980’s, before graduating to become a consultant for the elite Internal Security Unit (ISU). The ISU is part of IID. He also became a paid Police informer. Like most Police informers he eventually got ‘dropped’ by at least some Police. The ‘dropping’ had followed his investment company going bust along with the money from a number of Police who’d unwisely invested with him.
After that he found his Mount Martha home raided in 1991 and goods taken. He also faced various criminal charges. On top of that on 19 April 1992, he was bashed by criminals who threatened to kill him. Police had deliberately leaked information to them.
It was this sequence of events that led to Zoccoli going to other Police and the media to blow the lid on his corrupt activities.
When the allegations were initially raised, the Police Commissioner Kel Glare dismissed them as an elaborate hoax. These allegations centred on a covert operation called Operation Iceberg. Glare even went so far as to threaten suing Channel Ten. However it appears nothing came of this.
Zoccoli claimed the Operation initially targeted senior Police officer Frank Green, and then widened to include other officers, judicial figures, politicians and a whole range of allegedly corrupt activity. Glare contended that Green alone was targeted and as far as he was concerned, by the time the operation was reported in the papers, Green had been ‘cleared’ of all adverse allegations.
After the dust settled over the matter, it became clear that Zoccoli had dealt with Police for many years as an informant and at times defacto employee. He had also corruptly manipulated the criminal justice system in an attempt to gain advantage out of it.
POT OF COMMISSION
In the early 1980’s Mr. Salvatore Marabito was growing dope in pots in his own backyard. They’d been clearly visible from the street. Not surprisingly he was then busted by Police who had noticed them when driving past. While in custody, he met Zoccoli who said that for $25,000 he’d be able to take up the case, keep him out of trouble and out of jail. When Marabito asked Zoccoli what the money was for he told him ‘not to ask questions’ if he wanted help.
According to Zoccoli he eventually paid him $23,000 for the service. When the case came to court a Policeman (name deleted) who was a detective from an outer suburban station gave character evidence on Zoccoli’s behalf at the County Court. Zoccoli escaped jail and was given a fine of just $2,000 to be paid over two years. Zoccoli said he paid the Policeman $5,000 for his part in fixing the case.
NOW INNOCENT, BUT FRAMED, THEN JAILED BY POLICE
In the mid 1980’s Marabito ran a Pizza shop, when Zoccoli approached him and sought payment of an alleged $10,000 debt over the marijuana matter. Marabito said he’d paid him enough and refused to put up any extra money.
Zoccoli later mentioned this alleged debt to a third person when that person was discussing a $10,000 debt owed to him by Zoccoli. The man (identified in the papers as ‘G’ and a well-known crime figure) suggested a plan to get money out of Marabito to pay the debts. ‘G’ asked, wouldn’t Marabito go back to you if he ran into trouble with the law again?
As a result a plan was hatched to plant heroin on Marabito and have him busted by Police.
It was at this time, that Zoccoli mentioned to an associate, Police officer, John Fagg that Marabito should be put in to Police for falsified charges as punishment for failure to pay the alleged debt. (Fagg died in 1989 in a car crash).
Fagg noted in his diary,
‘Tony (Zoccoli) wants Marabito debt repaid and said he will dob him in for drugs when he finds out a bit more about his movements, he runs a pizza shop…Tony said he was serious about Marabito and to go ahead and get quotes…Tony wants Morabito (sic) dobbed in for dealing drugs…’
In December 1988, Zoccoli purchased some cut heroin powder for $800 from a dealer known to Police (whom they also chose to allow to continue to operate) and put it inside tissue paper inside a Redheads matchbox. ‘G’ then arranged for the matchbox to be planted in Marabito’s old Cortina car and to let Zoccoli know so that he could arrange a Police raid. This was done without Marabito’s knowledge although at least one Police member was aware of what was happening. Zoccoli then contacted Police a few days later and initiated a raid on Marabito’s house and car.
A warrant to raid the house at 280 Elder Street, Greensborough, was issued by a ‘justice’ after Police said they had ‘information’ that Marabito had an unlicenced pistol at home. Although the alleged information of Police was totally and demonstrably false it didn’t stop the ‘justice’ from issuing the search warrant. Again this shows how easy it is for bent Police to gain access to an innocent person’s house if they so desire and how those in the judiciary aid and abet such activity.
Marabito’s home was raided by Sergeant Peter Brilliant and other Police from the Essendon Police station with help from the Greensborough District Support Group (DSG). It was a heavily armed bunch that crashed through Marabito’s home in the early hours. Marabito, who was married with three kids, recalls being abruptly woken by the sound of breaking glass. Both him and his wife had guns pointed at their heads. The young children, subjected to the terror, were told to stay where they were.
The Police had been tipped off by Zoccoli that there were drugs in the boot of the car. Not only did the Police not find a pistol, but they didn’t find the drugs either!
It had been arranged for several young, inexperienced Police to be on the raid and find the drugs. It was thought that they’d be more credible in front of a jury in a later trial. The reason no drugs were found was because the matchbox had been hidden under the carpet at the front of the car itself, not the boot.
Following this failure, the men were directed to make a second search. This time the planted drugs were located. A Police officer shoved the box in front of Marabito’s face and opened it. The officer yelled ‘What’s this! It’s drugs, heroin’. Marabito denied all knowledge of the drugs or who had planted them. In sworn statements to court, raiding Police had alleged that he’d been somewhat nervous at the time his car was searched. In fact Marabito had wanted to go back into the house to get his teeth as he had trouble speaking to Police without them. Also his feet were freezing up as he stood barefoot on the driveway.
Marabito was then carted off back to Essendon to be questioned. This was in spite of the fact that Greensborough Police station was just minutes away. He was charged with possession and trafficking a drug of dependence, namely heroin.
In line with the plan, Marabito went and saw Zoccoli at his office a few days after the raid. He told him of the raid and the Police charges and protested his innocence. Distressed, he left and went and saw his solicitor in order to defend the charges in court.
He pled not guilty to both. Police then dropped the trafficking charge but on 25th June 1990, a County Court judge and jury convicted him of possession. He was sentenced to two and a half year’s jail. An appeal lodged before the court of criminal appeal also failed. In other words, Marabito had been effectively convicted three times through the Victorian legal process, namely at the committal stage, court case in front of judge and jury and then again at the appeal stage.
In spite of his innocence, the Victorian legal system had got it wrong at least three times! For those who face Police charges on any matter, such a result is hardly likely to instill confidence that justice will always be done.
Marabito spent sixteen months incarcerated at Pentridge and Loddon (Castlemaine) prisons. Notable is that during the various court hearings a lot of vital evidence that showed Marabito’s innocence was apparently kept out of the hearings. Again such scenarios are common and by no means restricted to the Marabito matter.
In a later statement dated April 1992, Zoccoli said ‘The whole plan was to have powder put in his car and then have him picked up, come to me for assistance and I could get my money. But it didn’t happen that way; he came to see me but he took everything to (his solicitor) and never came back to me for assistance…Because he didn’t ask me for assistance, I couldn’t ask for the money’.
The story according to Marabito is slightly different. He said that Zoccoli had said he’d help him keep out of jail, but for a price. Marabito said ‘He was trying to convince me that if I went (through the system) legally I would get 15 or 10 years in jail. But if I had money this would not happen’. Marabito said he refused to pay money despite Zoccoli’s promises that a payment would guarantee his freedom. When interviewed in 1991, Marabito said ‘I paid last time with the marijuana, because I was guilty. This time I was innocent - I would not pay’.
Although lawyers acting on behalf of Marabito had sought Police investigations into the frame up almost immediately and throughout the time that Marabito faced charges and again after sentencing, Police effectively refused to look into the matter. As usual for these things, their members were ‘blameless’. Following the ‘Mr. Fixit’ revelations in the media in 1992, IID officers again looked at the matter.
In April 1992, Zoccoli made a statement to Police investigators about his role in the matter, including why Marabito could not have known about the planted drugs before they were found. Zoccoli admitted that it was he who’d arranged for them to be planted.
IID officers Inspectors Leigh Delmenico and Tony Warren later agreed that Marabito had been framed and was in fact innocent of the charges he’d been convicted of. Although Peter Brilliant was ‘cleared’ of wrongdoing over the matter, IID Police said a second (unnamed) Police officer was well aware that the whole thing was a frame up and that Marabito was innocent.
At the time of the IID findings, Brilliant claimed he had no knowledge that Marabito had been framed (which is why he was personally ‘cleared’ by them). It noteworthy that in contradiction to this Zoccoli had previously made a statement saying that he’d been the one who’d tipped Police off about the drugs, noting that they had traveled about 15 km from their ‘patch’ to conduct the raid. Brilliant and another member were not dismissed over their failure to look for fingerprints on the matchbox, although it is clear that no such search was conducted because one would have shown that Marabito’s prints wouldn’t have been on it. A search for prints on such a find (drugs or container with them) is a routine procedure to confirm that they are not in fact planted as many who are caught with drugs would allege. On a separate matter, in 1992, Brilliant who’d also been a part of the major crime squad was suspended from the force. Details of that matter are not known.
IID refused to give any information as to from where the false allegation about the pistol had come from.
In 1993, Marabito and his lawyers petitioned the relevant government officials for a full pardon and compensation for his wrongful imprisonment. However this application was rejected by Attorney General Jan Wade and the DPP. The DPP refused to give Zoccoli an indemnity against prosecution if he gave evidence in court stating his role in the set-up. Furthermore Wade refused to accept a mercy petition, even though she apparently had the power to do so. It was suggested that if Wade were to reverse the conviction of Marabito, it would open the floodgates for similarly framed people and cost the government substantially in compensation payouts. Meanwhile, the case had financially destroyed Marabito and his family.
Following the above saga, Marabito said,
‘I don’t know what to do. There’s no justice. Everybody, even the Attorney General, knows what happened. I can’t afford to do nothing more. I have no money. The cops say I was set up. What else do they want?’
It is notable that although it was agreed that the Marabito cases were rigged, nobody was charged over the rigging.
HIGH-LEVEL CONSULTANT TO POLICE OR LOWLY INFORMER
Zoccoli’s involvement with Police began in about 1982. He met Frank Green in February 1983 at least three times during the Costigan Royal Commission. Green was representing Victoria Police interests while Zoccoli was approached to give evidence to the commission about organized crime links in the video industry. The first two meetings were at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, while the third was at a private house on the Mornington Peninsula. It appears that through Green or other Police, Zoccoli, then known as ‘Stuart Paul Gill’ got contacts in the Police Bureau of Criminal Intelligence (BCI). Gill worked for the NCA, IID and ISU on various computer related matters and although he signed a secrecy agreement with the NCA, the Victoria Police never sought any such undertaking.
Gill worked as a Police ‘informer’ on the Italian community for drugs and other matters from about 1985 when he worked as part of Taskforce Rover. In the 1980’s Gill said he used Police to ‘fix’ a number of court cases by various means including ‘bricking’ which was the fabrication of evidence, bribing Police and other methods. Cases where Police had charged people were, by arrangement with Police effectively sabotaged. This was usually by withholding vital information at the court hearings. Gill effectively set-up business as a go-between for his clients that were Police, lawyers and criminals.
It was during this period that Gill was involved in a $10,000 bribe to a high-ranking Police officer relating to illegal gaming activity. Two further $400 payments were made to the same officer in the immediate vicinity of the William Street, Police headquarters. One Policeman had thousands of dollars channeled into his TAB account.
In another matter in late 1985, a detective sergeant was corruptly paid $2,000 to fly to Brisbane to attend court and give character evidence on behalf of a person facing relatively small-time drug trafficking charges. The same detective sergeant had already signed an affidavit giving the man a glowing reference. The same officer also got a free television set and on other occasions, cash. In relation to the Brisbane matter, in spite of all-up costs of $18,000, including the $2,000 for the Policeman, the bail application failed and the man was jailed.
When Gill had troubles with a creditor who threatened him in October 1990, he paid four Police officers money to give him ‘protection’. He owed the creditor about $100,000 and the officers waited at Gill’s office while he worked there.
Another time $3,000 was allegedly paid to a Sydney Police officer at the Sydney office of the DPP for information on a case. A separate matter involved rent of about $700 on a home unit, being paid as a bribe to a Policeman.
Other allegations that appeared to remain uninvestigated were that Police had uncovered a $3 billion dollar asset stripping and money laundering scam. Another was that three past and present (then 1992) members of the Cain/Kirner government had accepted a $250,000 bribe to arrange the dropping of charges against a prominent businessman.
Gill also got paid by Police for work he did unscrambling illegal gaming machines. In 1982 he had a brush with Police on a ‘theft’ matter, while in 1985 he was charged with impersonating Police. It is understood that Frank Green gave Gill character evidence in a matter at the County Court. When Gill and Green fell out isn’t exactly known, but it is thought to have been about the time Gill’s home at Mount Martha was raided by Police in 1991. Green had refused to intervene.
In July 1989, Gill was asked by two ISU officers to assist in an investigation into allegations against a senior Policeman, namely Assistant Commissioner Frank Green. Liasing with at least seven senior IID and ISU officers during the inquiry, Gill collated material for what became known as Operation Iceberg. Gill said that although he thought ISU did covert investigations, that wasn’t what he became involved in. He also dealt with dozens of other Police elsewhere in the force.
He later said,
‘It was initially into Frank Green, then it became Frank Green and his connections, and then it became connections of the connections, and then it became connections of any bank and financial connections, and then it grew and grew’.
Gill did the checks through his own contacts and passed this information on to ISU. Gill later said,
‘They were investigating a number of diverse matters. Some of them were completely off the planet’.
He also said,
‘It just seemed to me that if something came up that interested them, they became a target.’
Besides having regular visits at home in Mount Martha from IID officers, Gill was also a regular at their office at 23 Clarendon Street, East Melbourne. In fact he was so well-known there that he usually walked in without going through the usual security routine. Two officers whom Gill dealt with regularly were Inspector Chris J. Cosgriff and another. On 24th May 1991, Cosgriff gave Gill a reference on official IID letterhead.
The letter said he was being used by the Victoria Police as a ‘consultant’ and was actively consulting on current investigations. It was used by Gill to get paid consulting work in Canberra. On 13th February, Melbourne businessman, Gerard Gold wrote to the Chief Commissioner Kel Glare alerting him to the reference and potentially false information being distributed by Gill. The letter from Gold said that Gill had provided documents to an ACT parliamentarian Dennis Stevenson claiming them to be part of an official Victoria Police file called ‘The Manna Report’.
Gold was complaining because the documents mentioned his name nine times in a damaging way and he thought they were designed to cause him financial harm. Gold was disturbed that the documents purported to be from official Police files, when he said he didn’t think they were, based on their content. He went on to ask Glare the amount of ‘protection’ Gill was getting from Police.
A reply from Glare’s office dated 19 February 1992, said,
‘The issues raised in your letter and earlier correspondence have been considered and there is no further action that the Victoria Police will be taking at this time.’
Gold also wrote to Frank Green saying Gill had ‘left around printed material which, if it fell into the wrong hands, would damage your reputation’.
When questioned on the matter later, Glare said he had kept his distance over the matter and was unaware of the detail. In September 1992, Glare said of Gill,
‘I had no knowledge of his background, nor would I expect to, frankly’.
How Police investigate ‘their own’ was also demonstrated by public statements on the Iceberg probe at the time news of it broke in the media. In September 1991, Police announced that the inquiry into Frank Green hadn’t been completed, but that he’d be cleared by mid October. An inference that can be drawn from such a statement is that the outcome had been determined before the inquiry had begun, which is in line with many other internal investigations by Police. (This statement should not in this case be taken to be adverse to Green).
Following reports in the media, the Police admitted that material from their intelligence database had been leaked by Gill. Cosgriff was also admonished for describing Gill as a consultant, when officially at least he was an informer. Police also confirmed that the material leaked by Gill didn’t relate to ongoing court proceedings, thereby effectively clearing all those adversely named in the documents.
As for Operation Iceberg being a hoax, Gill said this was a reply by Police to cover their own mistakes. He said Police had set him up to discredit the investigation. In terms of his own character assassination by the Police media unit after he’d leaked the information, he asked ‘Do you think there will be an inquiry into what has been done to me?’
While Operation Iceberg was in full swing, Gill was regularly paid amounts of $100 and $200 from a Police slush fund. His phone bills sometimes up to $2,500 a time were paid by Police and arranged through the Frankston Telecom office. At the latter stages of the investigation, Cosgriff arranged for Gill and an associate to be put on sickness benefits through the Frankston branch of the Department of Social Security. His file had it recorded that he was in Witsec (witness protection).
Gill’s finance broking business also did plenty of work during the period he worked for the Victoria Police. According to Gill he arranged major property loans for three Policemen and their wives from a major bank. The loan material was prepared and approved by the bank about four weeks before Gill was bankrupted in 1990. Some time after the bankruptcy, Senior Sergeant Danny Walsh described Gill as a ‘charlatan, a thief, a liar and a confidence trickster’. Assuming his assessment to be true, I suppose it’s just remarkable how many well-trained and senior Police fell for his tricks! Or as Gill remarked when Danny Walsh called him a liar and a cheat,
‘What he didn’t talk about was the company I kept’.
In contradiction of Police guidelines the Police officers involved in the above schemes had not notified their superiors of their involvement. Documents linking the three Policemen with two companies were held by Gill. Alleged shareholdings by the officers as listed in the files, were not confirmed by the Australian Securities Commission (ASC). However ASC records did show the wives of two officers as the nominated directors of both companies. Although both companies listed real estate development as their primary business in Victoria, Land Titles Office records showed that neither owned any property.
Gill’s closeness to Police during the Operation Iceberg period (1989-91) was confirmed by Dennis Stevenson of the ACT Legislative Assembly. According to Stevenson, Cosgriff’s character reference for Gill was typed by Cosgriff with Gill at his ACT office. Stevenson had employed Gill following Cosgriff’s character report, to assist in investigating links between organized crime and pornography groups. Stevenson said that while Gill worked for him, Cosgriff contacted Gill at his office several times and even visited him in Canberra once. Cosgriff’s character reference for Gill was even given to the speaker of the ACT Legislative assembly to show his credentials as he made claims about organized crime. Stevenson noted that Gill and Cosgriff remained close until at least October 1991 when Cosgriff sent a fax to the ACT Assembly on ISU letterhead. Addressed to Gill it said,
‘Need to see you ASAP. Please inform me of return. Matter urgent.’
Stevenson later complained that the Victoria Police hadn’t told him about Gill’s prior convictions. He said he had even checked Gill’s background further with Cosgriff’s senior officer, Tony Warren. Superintendent Warren had told Stevenson that Gill’s claims about his association with ISU were legitimate. Stevenson recalled how on one occasion Cosgriff worked at the parliamentary office with a laptop computer that held sensitive files. He said ‘They were very solid together. Gill could get them (Police) on the phone at any time.’
During September 1992, which was when the Gill matters became a major news story, Deputy Opposition leader and Police spokesman, Pat McNamara promised a judicial inquiry into Police corruption if his party was elected to government. He further stated that it would be one of the coalition government’s ‘first priorities’ and that the public ‘has a right to know’. An election was due the following month. After election to government on October 3, 1992, this was perhaps the first pre-election promise the Kennett government dropped.
Kel Glare had also rejected a call for an open inquiry into Police saying,
‘It is also ridiculous to suggest a public inquiry is needed because "the public has a right to know"’.
FEAR FOR HIS LIFE
Gill well and truly knew he’d been sold out as a Police informer by Police themselves. On 19 April 1992 he was bashed by criminals known to Police. They told Gill they knew he was going to Police. Gill knew from then on his life was in danger. In 1984, Sydney undercover agent Mick Drury was shot and killed while washing dishes at home after being sold out by another Policeman - his brother.
It was following the attack, that Gill did over 9 hours of taped interviews with other Police blowing the lid on rackets he’d been involved in. Still in fear for his life, he then went to the media in a bid to get protection for himself and his family.
Following publication of his allegations in the Age on June 13th 1992, he delivered a 1 page letter to journalists explaining what he saw as his position. Edited for clarity, the letter read as follows:
‘I went to Police to tell nothing but the truth about the … matters. I was advised by my lawyers to go to Police. When I finished a long series of interviews on 14 May I was told that the papers would be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions and I would hear from them in due course.
A matter of grave concern happened during the interviews (on 29 April) when I was assaulted by persons known (to Police) and I was told that it was known I was going to Police. I became very fearful for my family and myself. The Police told me that this matter would be investigated. However for whatever reason, nothing has happened.
When the interviews concluded I was not told what would happen with regards to the information I supplied. I was promised nothing and asked for nothing. My family was put in fear by people looking for me and I was told that Police at the highest level regarded me as unreliable and trying to save my own skin. This was said to my lawyer by a member of the Police minister’s staff. It appeared that I was going to be totally abandoned with it becoming widely known that I had gone to Police.
Allowing the publication of my case was the only alternative opened to me as it seemed no one was interested in pursuing the matters and the word was out to get me. I wanted to make sure that this did not occur.
I have chosen this course because I admit to wrongdoing and I wish to correct the harm that I have caused to people (e.g. setting up Marabito) as much as I can by assisting these inquiries. I know the risks and that I will be attacked publicly and some will try to discredit me. I propose to continue cooperating with the investigating Police. I am being truthful to them in every way.
I hope that there is a full and independent inquiry as well because I know only too well that (the investigating) Police do not have the resources and manpower to cope with the investigation and the pressures that will be put on them.
Unless there is a public inquiry all the risks that I have taken will have achieved nothing.’
END OF SECTION
Primary sources of information were a collection of newspaper clippings at the relevant times (early 1990’s). These were corroborated in 1997-1998 when the book was being written after speaking to a number of people relevant to the cases (above). At the time no major new information was elucidated and/or to be included in the book and most of the corroboration process was not documented as such. However corroboration came from Marabito’s lawyer, several police and a family member of Marabito’s. Zoccoli was sought, but not found. He was not on the electoral rolls or phone books and/or not at locations indicated by them. Zoccoli was regarded by myself as someone worth contacting and more than usual effort was made to find him, particularly in view of the damning allegations made by him about Police, (recall that is what this book was about).
What is written above goes no further than that widely reported in the papers and TV at the time. TV reports are not relied upon as evidence, nor is material referred to in the reports, however there is little doubt that both, particularly the latter would further corroborate the above.
Since the filing of the writ the material has been further corroborated from several sources, including those listed on a separate document called ‘writ1’.
In the event of a trial an impressive list of witnesses could be called that would easily shatter any claims by Zoccoli re defamation.