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Police crack 'stowaway' Mokbel's escape route -

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Police crack 'stowaway' Mokbel's escape route

The World Today - Thursday, 5 June , 2008 12:10:00

Reporter: Jane Cowan

ELEANOR HALL: Police in Melbourne this morning arrested three people they suspect of helping former
fugitive and murder suspect, Tony Mokbel, to flee the country in 2006.

Detectives say they have now worked out how Mokbel managed to get out of Australia and make it to
Greece in the middle of his trial for drug importation.

They say that, in what ended up being a million-dollar plan, he fled on a 57ft yacht that was
trucked across the country before setting sail from Geraldton in Western Australia.

In Melbourne, Jane Cowan reports.

JANE COWAN: An elaborate and well planned scheme - that's how police are describing the escape of
the man who became Australia's most wanted fugitive.

Detective inspector Bernie Edwards is the head of the Purana Gangland Taskforce.

BERNIE EDWARDS: We believe it was planned very early on, from when Mr Mokbel failed to appear in
court and onwards.

JANE COWAN: In an operation that cris-crossed the country, police say Mokbel fled Australia by sea
in a 57ft yacht named the Edwina, which was bought from an unsuspecting Sydney businessman.

The boat was sailed to Newcastle where it was modified with desalination equipment and sleeping
quarters added. Then it was driven to Fremantle in Western Australia and then sailed to Geraldton.

Somehow police believe Mokbel got from a hideaway in rural Victoria to Geraldton and set sail with
the crew across the Indian Ocean through the Suez Canal. By Christmas Eve he was in Greece and
Australian police were still none the wiser.

Detective Inspector Bernie Edwards says Mokbel was assisted by as many as 10 people, including
three Greek sailors who were recruited for the purpose and flown to Australia.

BERNIE EDWARDS: The roles were the purchase of the boat, assisting with proceeds of crime, paying
for the modifications to the boat, accommodation for all the people involved, hire cars, food,
petrol and whatever, to assist them in getting the yacht over to Greece.

JANE COWAN: This morning police arrested three of those suspects and expect to charge them with
offences including conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Detective inspector Bernie Edwards says those who helped were probably driven by a misguided
loyalty to Mokbel.

BERNIE EDWARDS: My team at Purana have conducted a brilliant investigation and they've come across
this in relation to different proceeds of crime and they have followed it right through.

If you knowingly assist a person in similar situations, leaving Australia, we will pursue you.

JANE COWAN: Police won't say how much the people were paid for their alleged roles in Mokbel's
escape, except to say the entire operation cost about a million dollars, financed they believe, by
the proceeds of crime.

BERNIE EDWARDS: The boat was purchased for $350,000. There was modifications made to the boat. We
believe, with payments made to certain people, it would be in the vicinity of a million dollars.

JANE COWAN: Today's arrests are the result of a long-running investigation by police, involving as
many as 15 detectives and more than 50 warrants executed in the last month in three different

Detective inspector Bernie Edwards won't say whether Tony Mokbel himself provided any information
that contributed to the arrests but he did reveal Mokbel hasn't been interviewed since he was
brought back to Australia last month.

BERNIE EDWARDS: No, we've hardly spoken to Mr Mokbel.

JANE COWAN: Police say they expect to arrest as many as seven more people in both Greece and
Australia in the coming weeks. They're applying to interview Tony Mokbel shortly.

ELEANOR HALL: Jane Cowan in Melbourne.