The only way to ensure Kuwaiti-born fugitive gangland boss Antonios Sajih Mokbel (aka Fat Tony or Avoirdupois Antonios) gets a fair trial when he gets back to Melbourne is to televise it – or broadcast CCTV coverage of it live on the internet.
After a nine-month legal battle, seven judges of the Greek Supreme Court last week granted Australia’s official request for Mokbel’s extradition to serve his nine-year sentence for drug trafficking and to face 15 new charges – including two for murder.
Mokbel’s lawyer, Yannis Vlachos, argued his client would not receive a fair trial in Australia due to the Nine Network’s Underbelly series. This is despite the fact the TV gangland dramatisation is suppressed in Victoria; and is most unlikely to be seen there before the end of the decade at the earliest.
Naturally, the fairness claim is denied by the Victorian Attorney General and the Victoria Police. They say all Victorians are entitled to a fair trial and this is enshrined in English Common Law. They say it is Mokbel who has a history of attempting to pervert the course of justice. And it is one of the charges that the Greek Court dropped.
In 1990, Mokbel was jailed for 12 months for attempting to pervert the course of justice when he and two others were caught in a police sting operation trying to bribe a County Court judge with a combination of cash and drugs.
Another serious attempt to pervert justice came in March 2006 when Mokbel skipped on bail while he was receiving a fair trial for having allegedly bankrolled the importation of two kilos of cocaine from Mexico in late 2000. He heard about this sentencing while on the lam for six months at his Bonnie Doon hideout in rural Victoria. Then he took off for Europe with $20 million of company funds in his kick. Tony Mokbel got a new life in Athens as Stephen Papas.
Mokbel has spent all of his adult life at loggerheads with the law. At 18, two years after his father died, he left school to record his first conviction. Within four years he had notched up another 11. By 1992 the total had risen to 19.
Now he thinks he is more famous than Ned Kelly and he might well have a point. But our Ned never ran away or wore silly wigs or hid behind women’s skirts (OK, Mummy’s once). There was intense public and press interest in Kelly’s trial as there will be in Mokbel’s. This is especially so when you consider the Lewis Moran murder trial is likely to be the Melbourne gangland trial of the century (sorry Carl).
More than 100 million are said to have watched the OJ Simpson trial in 1995. There is an Australian precedent with Lindy Chamberlain’s conviction in 1982 and exoneration in 1988.
Regina versus Mokbel coming to the Victorian Supreme Court sometime soon could put them both in the shade. It will have to be carried on CCTV just for the attending ladies/gentlemen of the Press (damned if my Kooka brother will sit on my knee) so why not give it to the men and women of Australia and the world wide web?
It is well said that justice should not only be done, it should be seen to be done. It is our understanding the trial judge has sole discretion about cameras in court and we assume the Department of Justice would oversee the transmissions. Avoirdupois Antonios will get a fair trial if we all get to see it warts, boring bits and all.
We live in an electronic age where we get most of our news and other info from either the computer screen or the TV screen. So why not Fat Tony on a widescreen?
We think it is time for the courts to become more transparent and convey the actuality of the courtroom drama and boredom with live coverage. We want to see all the histrionics, the antics, the showmanship, the intimidation of witnesses, the venality and the nobility that is present in every murder courtroom drama.
It is theatre of the absurd and it is put on by the judge, the jury, the accused, the prosecution lawyers, the defence lawyers, the witnesses and the victims of crime. Why should court reporters get all the fun?
Can you imagine Justice Betty King as the beak on the bench when Mokbel’s judgment day comes to a screen near you? Judge Judy’s televised Peoples’ Court would have nothing on this fearsome visage. Even Dame Edna would be envious of these optometrist’s cat’s eyes.
Then there’s Naughty Tony’s other women… Mamma Mokbel (who got ten grand in cash for Christmas last year) is very angry with her boy Tony for doing the wrong thing. His first wife Carmel, the mother of his first two kids, is absolutely ropable that he now plays away from home every week.
We won’t say anything about gangland lawyer Zarah Garde-Wilson in case she sues us but we will be looking out for the exchange of dark stares and fashion statements when she eyes current girlfriend Danielle Maguire in the Banco Court each day.
Then there’s Roberta Williams, Judy Moran, Wendy Pierce and an assortment of other fruitloops, gombeens and gobshites who will stack the public peanut gallery everyday with their scintillating and earthy dialogue.
“Such is life,” Ned said.
Will Tony say “Love you darl,” and to whom?
We can’t wait…