MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: An appeal has been launched by a kingpin of what is still Australia’s biggest importation of ecstasy tablets.
Senior Calabrian mafia member Saverio Zirilli recently had his first hearing in Victoria’s Court of Appeal.
Currently serving a 26-year prison sentence, Zirilli’s grounds for appeal is the fact that his defense attorney, Nicola Gobbo, was a police informant who advised him to plead guilty. During the trial and in police documents, Ms. Gobbo was referred to as Lawyer X or Informer 3838.
15 million ecstasy tablets weighing 4.4 tons, with a street value of $122 million (some believe the seizure was worth up to $400 million), were seized by customs officers at the Port of Melbourne in 2007. The tablets were hidden in 3,000 tomato tins arriving from Italy.
The importation was the largest ecstasy seizure in the world at the time. When the drugs arrived at the port, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) swapped out the ecstasy pills with fake pills and waited for someone to pick them up. When no one came by to collect the “tomato tins”, a yearlong investigation was launched.
The entire seizure was only possible due to information and documents received by the police from their informant Nicola Gobbo, which included the bill of lading for the shipment.
The investigation eventually led police to the ringleader Pasquale Barbaro who was sentenced to life in prison. Jon Visser and Carmelo Falanga were also both convicted and sentenced to 11 years and 23 years respectively. They have also filed an appeal on the same grounds.
In his appeal, Saverio Zirilli claims that he was one of the men Nicola Gobbo advised to plead guilty at the same time she was ratting on him to the police. She also went on to represent other arrested members including John Higgs, Rob Karam, and the ringleader Pasquale Barbaro.
Depending on how Saverio Zirilli’s appeal turns out, it could have serious repercussions including clearing the way for the entire 31-strong syndicate to appeal their cases.