Senior Labor MP Luke Donnellan has launched an extraordinary attack in Parliament on Premier Denis Napthine and the Liberal Party for taking “blood money” from a suspected Mafia boss. In accusing the Liberal party of taking fundraising “money stained with misery and crime”, Mr Donnellan referred to recent revelations in Fairfax Media that Victorian Liberal figures, including backbencher Ken Smith, had continued to support events organised by a Liberal party donor despite knowing that the man has been accused in court of involvement in serious organised crime.
Fairfax Media last week also revealed the suspected Melbourne Mafia godfather, whose name has been suppressed by a criminal court order, helped bankroll the Liberal Party’s 2013 campaign for the marginal federal seat of Bruce via a fundraiser at the Docklands. The seat was contested by Liberal candidate Emanuele Cicchiello. On March 1, 2013, the alleged Mafia boss helped host the $250-a-head “Bruce Campaign Fundraising Dinner” at his Docklands reception centre, which he co-owns with a convicted criminal. Mr Donnellan told Parliament that the event was attended by several State and Federal Liberal MPs including Russell Broadbent and state Planning Minister Matthew Guy, who was guest speaker.
The alleged crime figure’s fund-raising occurred despite Mr Broadbent and other Liberal attendees knowing of the alleged Mafia boss’ suspected involvement in organised crime. Mr Donnellan said Liberal politicians “who would take money from criminals do not deserve to be in” Parliament. He also accused the Liberal Party of ignoring repeated warnings that the mafia figure and donor was allegedly involved in criminal activity. The Labor MP also described Liberal candidate Mr Cicchiello as the “Don Corleone of the south east” in relation to his role organising the March 2013 fundraiser.
In 2009, federal police launched an investigation into allegations the alleged Mafia boss had previously donated to the Liberal Party in order to get one of his criminal associates a visa. After that investigation received extensive publicity, some Liberal party figures continued to attend events organised by the suspected Mafia figure. “You would have thought that [the previous visa scandal] would have beenenough warning for some of the Liberal back-benchers to stop dipping their snout into the trough of blood-stained money,”
Mr Donnellan told Parliament. “Their lips are dripping with blood from criminals.” On Saturday, Fairfax Media also revealed that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was reviewing the criminal figure’s visa in a process that may lead to his deportation. Federal Liberal MP Russell Broadbent was previously embroiled in the donations-for-visa scandal after he lobbied the government for the crime figure to be granted a visa on humanitarian grounds. He has refused to comment.
The suspected Mafia boss is a long-time supporter of the Liberals in Victoria’s south-east, where he is seen as being able to influence votes of some residents of Calabrian heritage. The alleged Mafia boss has been previously described by police in court as a person allegedly involved in “murder, gunshot wounding and arson”. He was named as a suspected hit man in two coronial inquests in the 1990s and identified in a recent police intelligence briefing as the leader of a “well established” Calabrian Mafia cell in Melbourne that remains a powerful presence at Victoria’s wholesale fruit and vegetable market.
Despite being the subject of numerous organised crime probes, the alleged mob boss has never been charged with a criminal offence and denies any involvement in organised crime or political bribery. The federal police bribery probe was closed in late 2009 after gathering insufficient evidence.