Alex Mitchell’s Weekly Notebook

Fine Cotton “patsy” John Gillespie named in Panama Papers … the Kerry Packer connection revealed … ATO should try something new – collecting taxes … dangers for Malcolm Turnbull in marathon campaign …

Mystery man in Panama Papers

When the Panama Papers scandal was serialised around the world in April, the media in Australia highlighted the name of John Patrick Gillespie.
For 24 hours the name of the notorious gambler, horse trainer and con man appeared on all the front pages as a client of the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca. Then the story disappeared. Why?
On 18 August 1984 one of the most audacious betting scandals in Australian racing history was perpetrated at Eagle Farm racetrack in Brisbane.
A horse named Bold Personality was painted with brown hair dye and peroxide and came under starter’s orders as Fine Cotton. The race was won by the ring-in at juicy odds and bookmakers, both on-course and off-course, were taken for a small fortune by “in-the-know” punters.
A 1981 Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence gave a loud forewarning of the “ring-in” scam saying that there was “a massive conspiracy among the horse-racing fraternity, who are said to be involved in the fixing of horse races for huge financial gain”. The report was ignored by politicians, state police and turf clubs.
After the Fine Cotton scandal, the Australian Jockey Club at Randwick – under intense pressure from the racing public and media – warned off eight persons implicated on the scam from all its racetracks in NSW.
Bookmakers Bill Waterhouse and his son Robbie [now married to celebrity trainer Gai Waterhouse, nee Smith, daughter of the late Tommy Smith] joined others in an appeal to the Racing Appeals Tribunal headed by Judge Alf Goran.
Goran dismissed the Waterhouses’ appeal and accused them of participating in a “fraud of great magnitude”. He continued: “Each appellant remains marked as a cheat.”
In Brisbane in May 1984 criminal charges were laid against five defendants including John Patrick Gillespie, aged 44.
Another defendant, brothel keeper Hayden Haitana, told police in a taped interview that Gillespie had informed him that Queensland Turf Club officials and Brisbane police were bribed to turn a blind eye to the Fine Cotton scam and were “on side”.
On May 31 1984 Gillespie disappeared. At the trial of his co-defendants it was revealed that Gillespie watched Fine Cotton’s race in the company of Deputy Police Commissioner Les Duffy, Detective Sergeant Graham “Mick” McMullen and Detective Mike Sparkes.
Gillespie, who was nicknamed the scam’s “mastermind”, was arrested in Victoria in November and sentenced to four years’ jail when he pleaded guilty to all charges in February 1986.

Enter Big Kerry

On his first night in prison, a prison warder knocked on Gillespie’s cell door and told him he had a phone call. The warder marched Gillespie to a nearby phone to take the call. After establishing he was talking to Gillespie, the voice at the other end said: “Keep your mouth shut while you’re in there and we’ll look after you when you get out.”
It was the voice of the late Kerry Packer, media mogul and mega-gambler.
On release from jail, Gillespie left the country to run a string of bars in the Philippines. His bars were frequented by cashed-up Australian businessmen and sportsmen looking for cheap booze, loud music and female company.
In 1992 he became a founding director of International Millionaires’ Club and International Horseowners’ Club, both registered in the British Virgin Islands tax haven by Mossack Fonseca.
Both companies failed and were struck off the registries in 1995.
Gillespie next popped up in Murwillumbah on the NSW-Queensland border in the Tweed River Valley where he was born.
He trained a string of horses at the Tweed Valley Jockey Club racetrack at Tygalgah but none appear to have graduated to the big time.
Periodically his name was associated with various dodgy enterprises including an anti-wrinkle cream and a “fabulous” art collection of uncertain worth and provenance. He once claimed ownership of an original Monet which had belonged to the Shah of Iran, now deceased.
For many years he lived quietly in Murwillumbah and drank regularly at the Courthouse Hotel, opposite the police station.
In 2010 he told the Queensland Sunday Mail that he had earned $1.8 million from the Fine Cotton ring-in scandal.
When told that official investigators had ridiculed his claim, Gillespie replied: “I don’t mind if people think it was a joke or whatever because I walked away with $1.8 million.”
Certainly, Gillespie’s four years in jail did nothing to cripple his bank balance. He appears to have come out of jail wealthier than when he went in. How’s that possible? Who made it possible? And who set him up in the Philippines?

Where’s the tax man?

Today the mainstream media claims that Gillespie is uncontactable. Perhaps they should try Casuarina, the beachfront estate just south of Kingscliff.
It’s where Kerry Packer’s friend, the late developer Brian Ray, built his glitzy Salt residential/tourism venue among the sand dunes. One of Packer’s earlier plans, since aborted, was to establish a regional casino on the Tweed Coast at Salt-Casuarina.
Ray was implicated in the “bottom of the harbour” tax-avoidance scheme which was used by numerous Packer associates. That was a decade or so before Messrs Mossack and Fonseca came along.
Will someone sound the alarm and wake up the paper-shufflers at the Australian Tax Office? Their job is simple – use all your legal powers to collect taxes from all citizens, companies (national and foreign), partnerships and trusts.

Marathon election

Federal election campaigns provide prime time for special interest groups to enter the fray, put out their wares and shout through loud-hailers.
It’s natural that they want to attract the attention of Government and Opposition candidates. Lobbyists and PR consultants savour election campaigns because the money rolls in.
So far we have heard from doctors, nurses, farmers, pensioners, real estate agents, pro-Christian lobbyists, euthanasia supporters, pre-school activists, armaments manufacturers and unions.
In an election campaign that is seven weeks long, there is more to come!
Apart from one strategic error – which may become fatal – the ALP has campaigned more coherently than expected. It has gained some unexpected momentum which is terrifying the Coalition because it regards the election as unloseable.
To seize back the initiative, the Coalition has introduced the rancid old chestnuts – 1) where’s the money coming from? 2) who do you trust to keep the Moslems out?
Instead of hammering home its primary strength – education and the full introduction of Gonski – Bill Shorten’s team are being burleyed, baited and hooked on the Coalition’s diversionary tactics. As a result it has moved Labor from the front foot to the back foot.
In part, the marathon campaign is responsible for this toing and froing. Long campaigns were attempted in the past by over-confident prime ministers, Liberal and Labor, with near-disastrous consequences.
In 1969, John Gorton led his troops into prolonged battle sandbagged by a record majority. But at the end of the 60-day campaign he scraped home losing 18 seats. Gough Whitlam and Labor had given notice of the inevitable Whitlam’s victory which came in 1972.
In 1984 Bob Hawke whose self-belief was pathological called a long campaign believing he would grind Andrew Peacock into obscurity.
However, the result was a 1.4% swing against Labor while the “Kooyong colt’s” Coalition collected 17 extra seats in an enlarged House of Representatives.
In today’s campaign Turnbull cannot rest on his record – he has none – and he can’t make bold promises – the budget is in dire deficit. So he is reduced to a campaign message, “Trust me because I’m a wealthy but caring merchant banker”.
Will it fly with voters from the working class, middle class, pensioners, superannuants, unemployed and students on July 2?

Memo to ABC Radio

Melbourne-born uber-Zionist Mark Regev has taken up his post as Israel’s ambassador to the UK.
The former official spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s regime has started his London diplomatic career with a splash – a signed article in Rupert Murdoch’s Times accusing the British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of encouraging anti-semitism.
It is a vicious libel on Corbyn. His only “offence” is to have been critical over the years of Israel’s settlement policy, its horrific blitzkrieg on the civilian population of Gaza and its repeated breaches of human rights.
The ABC’s radio national presenters will now have to phone London rather than Tel Aviv to record Regev’s slimey defence of the indefensible.

Trump Nation

Either way, I don’t care. Hanging, shooting – I’d prefer he [President Obama] be hung from the portico of the White House or, as I call it, the White Mosque.
– Anthony Senecal, Donald Trump’s former butler