Golden Punters – Part 2

The TAB representative said it would have been possible for an individual to purchase a successful punter’s tickets with the object of ‘washing money’.

With $33000 of the winnings traced to betting by Trimbole, Fisher QC concluded: ‘An obvious attempt has been made to transfer $48600 tax free to Antonio Sergi’.

Sergi’s brother-in-law, Luigi Pochi, who was in partnership with Sergi and Trimbole in a wine outlet in Canberra and named by Fisher QC as the ‘Canberra connection’ of the marihuana trade, also had what was described as ‘astonishing’ success at betting.

In 1975, Pochi had been arrested in a police raid on a thirteen-hectare marihuana plantation at Colleambly, near Griffith, and served a term in gaol.

Over a period of eleven months Pochi had placed forty-nine bets, twenty-six of which had won — winning him $28500.

His record of betting, which in many cases involved the last bet recorded against winning horses in the records of Cooma bookmaker Brian Henry Crawford, was said by Fisher QC to have been ‘beyond the realm of probability for such a sequence just to happen’.

Rocco Barbaro, also a brother-in-law of Sergi, who managed to establish a 60-square home in Canberra valued at $100000, claimed he had won over $40000 playing French roulette at an illegal gambling club at Bondi Junction in Sydney.

Barbaro pleaded guilty in 1974 to growing marihuana at Tharbogang, Griffith, and was fined only $250 and a suspended sentence on entering a good behaviour bond.

Explaining his gambling success, Barbaro said the first time he had gambled at the club he had won $12 000 or $13000. ‘Another time’, he said, ‘I went to Sydney to try and auction my farm at St Marys. It was a long weekend and I won about $27000 which I won in two lots during the weekend — the first about $12000 and the second $15000. That is all.’

He was paid by cheques which showed up in his Canberra bank accounts.

Pressed to outline his playing method, Barbaro said: ‘There is a large table. There are numbers on the table. You put the token which you get for money on the number and if you get the number, you get the money. There is a wheel on the table. They put a little ball to roll around the wheel and logically if the ball stops on your number you win.’

Fisher QC then told the inquiry: ‘What our inquiries disclosed is this: if one attends this club with cash, one goes to a certain window or table and purchases tokens with which to conduct the gambling. You can purchase any amount you like. You then can do one of two or three things. You can do nothing at all, or you can play at the roulette (not in the form described, but the more regular form) or you can play other games or you can walk around and appear to be playing or perhaps hazard small sums.

‘But at the end of the evening you return to the table where you purchased your tokens. If you present the tokens they are redeemed for cash. Nobody asks you whether the tokens represent winnings or whether the balance represents a loss or whether the balance represents a gain, or whether, instead, you have just left them in your pocket and never used them at all.

‘So the fact that somebody undoubtedly leaves with a cheque for a large sum goes no part of the way at all to demonstrate that he has won a single dollar.’

Mr Justice Woodward: ‘Another method of laundering dirty money?’

Fisher QC: ‘Yes, Your Honor’.

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