Mokbel turns to Legal Aid as ex-crime boss’s appeal grinds to a halt

Tony Mokbel’s appeal against his drug convictions has ground to a halt because of a lack of money to fund his legal team, a court has heard.

Mokbel, 56, is serving a 30-year jail term for drug trafficking but is fighting to have his convictions quashed given his past involvement with disgraced barrister Nicola Gobbo, who was a registered police informer while also acting as his lawyer.

Nicola Gobbo and Tony Mokbel outside a court in 2004.Credit:Nine News

The jailed crime boss launched his appeal in 2017 and had hoped to have his case heard in court this year, but the Court of Appeal heard on Tuesday that Mokbel had run out of funding for his legal team – which was headed by Ruth Shann, SC – and applied to Victoria Legal Aid for help.

Mokbel previously had assets of $20 million, which included properties, luxury cars and cash, that were seized by investigators when he was arrested in 2001.

Lawyer Lee Ristivojevic, acting for Mokbel on Tuesday, said the case couldn’t proceed until there was an update on the funding application.

“Things are at a standstill,” Ristivojevic told judicial registrar Deirdre McCann during an administrative hearing.

“Substantial work on this matter has ground to a halt because there is not a legal team.”

She said Mokbel had applied for legal aid to provide a team of lawyers, including a senior counsel.

Legal Aid lawyer Mia Smithyman said the organisation had received Mokbel’s application, but it hadn’t yet been referred to a decision-maker.

She said the organisation expected to decide within three weeks whether it would fund the appeal.

McCann said the Court of Appeal had already invested a lot of time and effort hearing Mokbel’s challenge and was keen to have a judge rule on the factual disputes raised previously by his lawyers and prosecutors.

In past hearings, Shann was repeatedly critical of the time it took prosecutors and police to hand over documents that were crucial to Mokbel’s appeal.

Mokbel has already had one of his convictions quashed over the scandal involving Gobbo’s conduct.

Some of Gobbo’s past clients have had convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal. They include Faruk Orman, who had a murder conviction overturned in 2019, and Zlate Cvetanovski, who had drug trafficking convictions quashed in 2020.

Mokbel did not appear in Tuesday’s hearing. His case will return to court in August.

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