Last drinks for drug lord before arrests
It was a who's who of Melbourne's underworld, a birthday bash for Tony Mokbel's drug cook.
Wheat, the cafe nestled under the lofty offices of leading QCs at Crockett Chambers in Lonsdale St, buzzed with chatter of Mokbel's cocaine trial.
The occasion would double as a last drinks before Victoria Police, applying the secret weapon now known as Lawyer X, put away Mokbel's underlings.
The party's host was a long-time linchpin in Mokbel's "Company", a kind of real-life Walter White before the TV character's time.
He had cashed in a few lucky charms to reach 40, given the guns held to his head, his compulsive gambling, and his tendency to use what he cooked.
It was two years before Breaking Bad would explode on to TV screens, and two weeks before Mokbel would skip bail and sail to Greece.
Milad, the younger brother who idolised Tony, was at Wheat that night.
As was Rob Karam, a regular customer at strip club Spearmint Rhino - until he was locked away for 37 years for massive drug importations.
Fedele "Fred The Bear" D'Amico is a nightclub investor and horserace owner who is thought to have survived two murder plots.
He popped in as well.
Other Mokbel associates were there, too, "friends" as the cook called them, though it would be the cook who unwittingly supplied police - through his police informing lawyer - with the details of drugs labs that led to long jail terms.
The cook celebrated with 80 to 100 of his closest friends, including Lawyer X.
She was more than a guest.
She had organised the occasion.
The cook did not pay Wheat for his birthday celebration. Instead, the $17,000 bill was put on the Visa card of his barrister, Lawyer X.
Wheat, which has since closed, was a favoured venue for her. Up-market and breezy, featuring an island bar, the restaurant provided a natural habitat for the exchange of secrets.
Lawyer X had met there with Paul Dale, a drug squad detective, with whom she socialised in the months before the death of Terry Hodson, who was also her client. Dale would later be charged with Hodson's death.
Lawyer X was also spotted at Wheat with another client, Mick Gatto.
In March, 2006, the Mokbel cook was producing prodigious amounts of methamphetamine. He was spending a lot of time with his lawyer.
He was on bail for the manufacture and trafficking of commercial quantities of methamphetamine.
He said that Lawyer X was his friend.
It is clear that their relationship seeped into realms rarely waded into by lawyers and their clients. Lawyer X, for example, had babysat his children. And she felt uncomfortable about her subterfuge against him. She expressed guilt to police the first time she deceived him. And the second time. And the third time.
The cook is among the "Secret Seven" named in court documents on Monday whose convictions may have been tainted by Lawyer X's conflicted roles of defence lawyer and police informer.
She was the cook's lawyer when, five weeks after his birthday, he mentioned to her that one of Mokbel associates was unwise for setting up a meth lab next to a primary school.
The loose comment, passed on to her police handlers, was enough for investigators to pin the lab to Strathmore.
She had informed on the cook from late the previous year. When he was arrested on April 22, 2006, on the basis of her information, she was notified beforehand. She then turned up to represent him after his arrest, and the cook made admissions to police.
He would become a key witness in the collapse of Mokbel's Company.
In Supreme Court documents, it's said she sometimes told the cook to stop telling her about his illegal pursuits. She was driven, in part, to rid herself of the Mokbels, who were clients, and whom she described as the "Mokbel monkey" she wanted off her back.
Yet she also told police that the cook was susceptible to approaches to "roll" (or turn) on Milad Mokbel because he was "owed a ton of money". Three days after she told police of a drug lab site, she said she "feels sick" about it.
The cook, from court documents, cared more for Lawyer X than she cared for her client.
He was concerned after his arrest that she might come to harm. She had breached the "golden rule" and not informed other Mokbel associates of his arrest.
Lawyer X visited him in prison and kept in contact "to look after his legal interests when he signed statements to assist police".