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THE long slippery slope towards a life sentence began for Pasquale Barbaro in June 2007, when customs officials on Melbourne’s docks singled out a container of what was branded as Italian tinned tomatoes.

When X-rays showed ”image anomalies”, the customs officers opened them, uncovering 15 million ecstasy tablets weighing a massive 4.4 tonnes – Australia’s biggest ever drug bust and the world’s largest ecstasy haul.

From then, the fates of Barbaro, his cousin, Saverio Zirilli, and four other men were sealed.

The Age.  NEWS.  Supplied.  23RD JUNE 2003.  Pasquale Barbaro - murder victim.  Taken from Il Globo obituaries page 23rd June 2003. qdp030623.004.002
Pasquale Barbaro.

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The downfall of Barbaro and Zirilli is a reminder of the reach of the ‘Ndrangheta, an Italian organised crime group with ties to the region around Griffith district in NSW Australia.Barbaro’s father, Francesco ”Little Trees” Barbaro, was named by the 1979 Woodward royal commission as a member of a secretive clique of Calabrians who lived in the Griffith region and who were linked to the organised italian crime group’Ndrangheta. There is no suggestion he is involved in the Melbourne drug  importation.

Barbaro, 50, and Zirilli, 55, pleaded guilty last year in Victoria’s Supreme Court to charges of trafficking ecstasy and attempting to possess cocaine, but their pleas remained secret until yesterday, when the other four men were convicted.

The final nail in the group’s coffin, in July 2008, was an attempt to smuggle 100 kilograms of cocaine, hidden in bags of Colombian coffee beans, into Australia. Officials had X-rayed the cargo and found the stash of drugs.


Less than a fortnight after the discovery, police raided properties all over south-eastern Australia, arresting syndicate members and others.

Former Kings Cross underworld figure and convicted drug dealer Bill Bayeh is to be released on parole.

The NSW State Parole Authority today ruled the 55-year-old, who was jailed for cocaine and heroin trafficking, be released on parole next month.

Bayeh was in custody from 1996, but was sentenced in 1999. He was given 15 years in prison, backdated to 1996.

He will be eligible for release on July 17, the day his minimum sentence ends.

At a parole board hearing at Parramatta today, Judge Terence Christie said the authority had taken into account submissions by counsel for the police commissioner, who opposed parole on the grounds the release was not in the public interest.

But Judge Terence Christie said Bayeh had served a lengthy prison sentence compared to other sentences for crimes of a similar nature.

Bayeh, who appeared via videolink from Cooma Correctional Centre said, “thank you sir, God bless you”, when the decision was announced.

Judge Christie imposed several parole conditions on Bayeh, who he said would be closely supervised by Corrective Services NSW after his release.

A key condition is that he must not enter the Kings Cross area or gamble.

The authority also ordered Bayeh to undertake regular drug and alcohol testing and to undergo psychological assessment and testing at the direction of his parole officer.

Bayeh was arrested during the 1996 Wood Royal Commission into police corruption and pleaded guilty to conspiring to supply commercial quantities of cocaine and heroin between December 1, 1995 and July 24, 1996.

The charges followed extensive police investigations, including video and audio surveillance, into the activities of Bayeh and others centred on the Cosmopolitan coffee lounge on Darlinghurst Road in Kings Cross.

Sydney solicitor Stephen Alexander, who represents Kings Cross nightclub entrepreneur John Ibrahim, declined to comment on Bayeh’s impending release.

‘‘I think it’s inappropriate to say anything at this stage,’’ he said.

Mr Ibrahim was a frequent visitor to the Cross during the 1980s, when Bayeh and his brother Louis Bayeh were operating various businesses.

At the parole hearing today, counsel for Corrective Services, opposed Bayeh’s parole on the grounds of public safety.

In giving the parole authority’s decision, Judge Christie noted both the Probation and Parole Service and the Serious Offenders Review Council (SORC) supported Bayeh’s release.

He also said it was clear from a number of the sentencing judge’s remarks in 1999 that the sentence was ‘‘intended to be more punitive than rehabilitative’’.

Judge Christie referred to a report by the SORC that found Bayeh had a strong support network in the community.

The parole authority had also been informed that Bayeh had been offered a job, he added.S

everal members of Bayeh’s family were at the hearing.

Speaking briefly outside court, his brother Said Bayeh said he was pleased with the result.

Bayeh would be working for a ‘‘fruit man’’, he said.

AAP and Paul Bibby


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