You’ve gotta love Lucky Gattellari. Faced with the possibility of being banged up in the big house for a long time over the murder of Michael McGurk — a crime for which he has been charged but not yet tried — the former boxer is now singing like a canary.
Recently, he fingered his former associate, wealthy property developer Ron Medich, for trying to corrupt a NSW cabinet minister with a veritable smorgasbord of sensual delights, including a vat of Tasmanian pinot noir and a lovely young masseuse called Tiffanie.
Tiffanie is sadly absent from the current inquiry conducted by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. However, Lucky himself has been upping the glamour factor by arriving in a bullet-proof vest with his own heavily armed guard, straight from protective custody. Medich, one of the seven co-accused for the McGurk murder, is again centre stage and is expected to appear later in the week.
A popular theory holds that Lucky, christened Fortunato Gattellari, is trying to save his own skin by telling NSW police about everything he and Medich have done together, including what they ate for breakfast. This time around ICAC is looking at dealings between Lucky, Medich and three members of the Wagonga Aboriginal Land Council.
Yesterday, the hearing was told that Medich and Gattellari paid $130,000 in cash and other benefits to the three officials in order to get them to hand over valuable pieces of land to the Medich group for development. In the end, it was a giant waste of time and money, as the governing body for the 119 local Aboriginal land councils, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, got wind of the matter and stopped the sales from going ahead.
The inquiry heard that in 2005, a man with good connections to Aboriginal groups, the delightfully named Ronnie Binge, approached Gattellari with a proposal to “butter up” officials in local Aboriginal land councils to induce them to enter into joint ventures. The two men formed a company together called Tribal Solutions, and decided to tap Gattellari’s good mate, Medich, for some money. Lucky said he told Medich that “if we had a bit of cash that we could sweeten the pot with, we would probably get the right decisions”.
Ron liked the idea so much that he invited Lucky and Binge around to his harbourside mansion in exclusive Point Piper, opened up the safe and gave them $50,000 in cash. However, the two men only travelled about 300 metres down the road before they were pulled over by the police, who were searching the area following a spate of robberies. Eventually it was sorted out, but Binge was temporarily detained when they discovered he was an unlicensed driver.
At that time the Wagonga Land Council was dominated by the Mason family and a man called Ken Foster, who, as in the local government satire Grass Roots, took turns in running the council for their own benefit.
As counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson, SC, explained, “while Ron Mason was chairperson at Wagonga, he presided over a series of decisions inexplicably favourable to the Medich Group and correspondingly disadvantageous to the members of his land council. I believe the evidence will show that the Medich group was secretly paying Ron Mason at the same time these decisions were made.”
Yesterday’s evidence did show this, with Gattellari being questioned about reams of notes he had made at the time. Lucky’s spelling and grammar are atrocious, but has a very good grasp of cash-flow. One of the notes indicates that although he and Medich had handed over a great deal of cash to Mason, bought him cars and tractors and taken him on a $2500 trip to Byron Bay, the result was that they had received “NOTHING” and were therefore “F-CKED”.
The inquiry continues.