Sydney property developer and rich list member Ron Medich was the “mastermind” of the conspiracy to murder his former business associate Michael McGurk, a Sydney court was told last night.

Medich, who last appeared on BRW’s Rich 200 list in 2005 with a fortune of $135 million, was arrested on 27 October in central Sydney and later charged with soliciting the murder of McGurk.

The court was told that one of the four men already arrested over the murder, former boxing champion and Medich associate Lucky Gattellari, has agreed to give evidence against Medich.

The court was told Medich put up $250,000 for the murder, and was with Gattellari when he received a text message saying “job’s done”. The court was told that Gattellari then threatened to “dump” on Medich if he didn’t pay him $1 million.

However, Medich’s defence lawyer, Clive Steirn, described the prosecution’s case as “weak” and said there was no independent evidence to support the Crown’s case. Medich was refused bail, with magistrate Antony Townsden saying he was concerned for “the protection and welfare of members of the community and to the victim’s partner and family.”

Medich spent his first night in jail last night, and now faces life imprisonment if convicted.

The court hearing comes more than a year after McGurk was gunned down outside his Sydney home on 3 September, 2009, in front of his young son.

Detective Superintendent Peter Cotter, commander of the homicide squad, told reporters that police will allege Medich “commissioned” people to arrange and carry out McGurk’s murder.

“We would say there’s a number of business ventures between the businessman and Michael McGurk. Those businesses turned sour. There was litigation operating at the time. It was pure economics that was the real motive.”

Last week, police charged four men in relation to McGurk’s murder, including Gattellari, who was charged with soliciting the murder and being an accessory after the fact. His associate Senad Kaminic, 42, was charged with being an accessory both before and after the fact to murder.

Haissam Safetli, aged 45, was charged with murder and soliciting to murder, while Christopher Chafic Estephan, 20, an associate of Safetli, was also charged with murder.

The murder of McGurk shocked Sydney’s business community and also caused controversy in political circles, as McGurk had alleged prior to his death he had audio tapes that revealed corruption in the NSW Government.

However, McGurk was also involved in a series of property disputes around the time of his death, including a property dispute between Adam Tilley and Medich over the 2004 sale of a mansion by Medich to Tilley. According to reports at the time, Medich appointed McGurk to recover money owed over the sale.

But as revealed by SmartCompany in September 2009, Federal Court documents show Medich and McGurk were locked in a separate dispute over McGurk’s role in “extricating” Medich from an investment in the then-listed lender Amazing Loans (which has since been delisted following a takeover deal).

According to the court documents, Medich had invested about $25 million in Amazing Loans but had become unhappy with the direction being taken by the company’s chief executive, Paul Mathieson.

“Mr McGurk says, and it does not appear to have been denied, that Mr Medich entrusted him with the task of extricating Mr Medich from his investment in Amazing Loans Limited,” Federal Court judge Peter Graham wrote.

Justice Graham said the two formed an arrangement under which Medich would keep the $3 million which he had already been able to recover but that “thereafter, monies recovered would be divided as to two thirds to the Medich interests and one third to the McGurk interests once recoveries had exceeded a $14 million threshold”.

McGurk got Medich out of the investment, but a dispute over the payment of his commission eventually landed in the Federal Court.

“Because I was under the belief that McGurk helped me recover my funds my confidence in him increased and I trusted him,” Medich said in a statement to the court.

“I actually gave McGurk $3.8 million to pay off mortgages over his home at Cranbrook Avenue, Cremorne… just before I recovered the money from Amazing Loans as his commission.”

The two then became involved in a further dispute involving the purchase of two properties in Mowbray in Queensland and at Gerroa in NSW.

The bulk of Medich’s fortune, shared with brother Roy at the time he appeared on the rich list, came from a substantial share in a shopping centre in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt.

*This was first published in SmartCompany

Peter Fray

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