– Underworld figure and businessman Mick Gatto has been probed over suspected links to an offshore sports gambling business, despite being banned from Victoria’s casino and racetracks.
The Herald Sun has learned the one-time bouncer and lookout at illegal two-up games around Carlton allegedly had a stake in small betting agency Vilabet – an online gambling site set up in Vanuatu.
The company has since changed its name to BetJack.
The revelation comes as betting agencies yesterday suspended betting on Essendon games and the club’s Brownlow favourites amid calls from our leaders to ban AFL betting.
Vanuatu is a destination for gambling companies because they are not restricted by tight licensing controls.
Gatto has denied any link to Vilabet or BetJack, although admitting he knew its owner.
He was also relaxed about any investigation into his business activities.
The former heavyweight boxer is already under pressure from the tax department over unpaid income and is struggling to keep his crane business afloat.
Gatto is not listed by ASIC as a director or investor in the offshore betting company.
Vilabet was set up on November 16th, 2010 and changed to BetJack on March 1st, 2011. Both are listed as Australian proprietary companies and it has an office in Sydney.
Bookmakers take bets over the phone.
Management from the business did not return phone calls.
Although police are aware of Gatto’s alleged involvement in the online gambling site, which offers punters an array of sports including AFL, NRL, cricket, soccer and horse racing to gamble on, authorities including the Australian Crime Commission, Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police are powerless to control it because it is outside their jurisdiction.
Victoria Police would not confirm or deny whether an ongoing investigation was under way.
It is not known if any unusual betting activities, including plunges, have occurred.
Last year, Gatto, who wrote about his gambling exploits as part of amassing a fortune and losing it, has had his assets frozen by the Australian Taxation Office, which has sent him a bill for $10 million.
His company, Elite Cranes, which he owns with Matt Tomas, has been struggling financially.
The Herald Sun believes Tomas is also looking to turn around his financial fortunes quickly – hoping to strike gold in a mining exploration site in the historic township of Omeo.
The more silent partner of Gatto has been pouring money into the project and taking regular flights from Essendon Airport to the site.
Gatto credits Tomas with setting up Elite Cranes while the Carlton identity was on remand for the shooting of Carl Williams’ hitman, Benji Veniamin.
It can also be revealed another Melbourne underworld figure convicted over the world’s largest-ever ecstasy bust worked for a major online betting agency despite being banned from the casino and race tracks.
The criminal – who cannot be named for legal reasons – owns racehorses through his wife and has extensive connections to the racing industry.
He is also a close associate of speed king John Higgs and Tony Mokbel, the drug kingpin who laundered money at racetracks and was part of the notorious tracksuit gang.
Police investigating him over the ecstasy bust regularly intercepted calls between him and some of Australia’s best-known racing identities.
In another blow to the betting industry, it can now be revealed the underworld figure worked for a Darwin-based online betting agency that sponsors many AFL clubs despite being banned from racetracks and Crown Casino.
The criminal – a multi-millionaire – threatened legal action when asked about his role in the gambling industry – Anthony Dowsley & Padraic Murphy