Mick Gatto is certainly a man who knows how to move on from the death of his friends.

Gatto was a life-long mate of slain underworld figure Lewis Moran. The trial of Moran’s alleged killer, Evangelos Goussis, is currently under way in the Victorian Supreme Court but the Melbourne underworld leader is not attending to find out what happened.

Instead, Gatto is off in Singapore chasing Opes Prime funds with John Khoury and Matt Thomas, the former driver of slain underworld figure Alphonse Gangitano, who now runs Elite Cranes along with Gatto.

Thomas, who beat a murder charge in 1996, first came to public attention in 2004 when it was revealed he attended a Labor Party fundraiser, sitting on a table with current Police Minister Bob Cameron and fellow Elite Cranes staff.

Elite Cranes rose from the ashes of Sydney-based TJF, which used Tom Domican as its industrial consultant. The SMH’s Neil Mercer reported in 2003 that TJF collapsed owing the ANZ Bank $50 million.

Thomas was the Melbourne-based manager of TJF at the time, so presumably he must have had some negotiations with ANZ and the receivers that allowed Elite Cranes to emerge as a prominent player on Melbourne construction sites.

A lot of the background on all these connections and colourful characters is laid out on this website and there are books from the likes of Channel Nine’s Adam Shand and The Age’s John Silvester, if you’d rather rely on something more concrete than Underbelly.

One of the most interesting lines in today’s papers was the speculation published by The Australian that Sydney criminal lawyer Chris Murphy was one of the Opes Prime clients who had retained Gatto’s crew. This seems hard to believe.

As the recipient of a $250,000 Maserati from Opes Prime and the only identified member of the “gang of six” whose accounts were manipulated to avoid margin calls, Murphy remains a key player in the whole affair who all parties will be chasing for money.

Gatto’s crew has a lot of the players running scared. The AFR had the following on page one today about the only Opes Prime executive director who hasn’t yet been accused by ASIC of cooking the books:

Anthony Blumberg appeared distraught at news that some clients had retained notorious underworld figure Mick Gatto trying to recover their funds. “I now have a crime boss after me,” he said.

When serious commentators such as Alan Kohler, Stephen Bartholomeusz and John Durie are commenting about the role Mick Gatto is playing, you’ve really got to ask the question: “who’s in charge here?”.

Welcome to Australia, the home of cowboy capitalism. The Herald Sun even revealed on Saturday that Gangitano bashed then federal minister Peter McGauran in Melbourne’s poshest Chinese restaurant, The Flower Drum, back in 1996.

If gangsters can get away with such a brazen move, why wouldn’t Gatto’s crew step up and offer a gangland solution to aggrieved Opes Prime investors?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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