September 03, 2015

Betfair used by gangland figure Horty Mokbel for money laundering

Leading online gambling agency Betfair is being used by underworld figure Horty Mokbel as an online bank and suspected vehicle for laundering millions of dollars of drug money, raising serious integrity concerns.

Fairfax Media has learned that Mokbel and his associates have been shifting funds between accounts linked to his associates and a Melbourne telecommunications company, Roctel. Mokbel controls a large chunk of the company, having invested at least $1 million.

The use of Betfair raises questions for the James Packer-owned gambling agency, as Mokbel, who is a convicted drug trafficker and the brother of jailed drug lord Tony Mokbel, has been banned by Victoria Police from all racetracks and Crown Casino since 2004.

But police are also in the spotlight for failing to ban one of Mokbel's key associates, Paul Sequenzia, from racetracks, despite the prominent owner of harness racers being linked to the cobalt doping scandal, and a race fixing syndicate.

Pictures have emerged of Sequenzia at Cranbourne on August 25, watching his horse Fake Smile win – the fifth win in five starts for the horse.

Sequenzia pocketed a share of $3848 in prize money on August 25, taking Fake Smile's earnings to almost $20,000. Fake Smile could become the most successful horse owned by Sequenzia since Sushi Sushi, which earned more than $1.1 million before it was put down last year.

Fairfax revealed in July that Sequenzia was linked to the cobalt scandal that is gripping the racing industry, as it is believed Dr Adam Matthews – the vet described as the "Stephen Dank" of the equine world for his links to horse doping – owed him money.

It was revealed in February that he had links to possibly doped horses in NSW.

On August 5, a cobalt inquiry heard that harness racing identity John "The Ghost" Camilleri sent a text message in January claiming that Sequenzia, who he called "Swayze", had placed a winning $25,000 bet on a horse after Camilleri told him it had been dosed with "a bag of magic", meaning cobalt. Camilleri later said he had lied in the text message.

Sequenzia, the brother-in-law of slain gangland figure Mark Moran, also owned the first horse to test positive to the substance EPO, and has been sanctioned by racing authorities for a string of offences, including misleading them about the ownership of Sushi Sushi.

He is a long-term friend of Horty Mokbel, who has been trying to rebuild his wealth since being released from prison in 2011. A court heard in early 2012 that Mokbel earned a paltry $368 a week working in a gym while he was on parole.

But, according to an underworld source, Mokbel has funnelled about $3 million through Betfair by using accounts opened by Roctel principals and their partners. It is suspected the funds are the proceeds of drug trafficking.

Roctel is based in a small office at a Northcote business park.

Mokbel was one of the first people banned from all gaming venues under special police powers introduced in 2004, but being added to the blacklist failed to curtail a keen interest in gambling and the races.

His latest criminal charge related to a 2011 prison fight which started because of a bet on an NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and North Queensland Cowboys. A pouch of tobacco had been wagered by prison inmates.

In 2007, assets from the $1.5 million sale of champion racehorse Pillar of Hercules were frozen when it was found the horse was bought with the proceeds of crime on behalf of a Mokbel syndicate.

The images of Sequenzia at Cranbourne show him freely associating with others trackside and in what appears to be an owners area, and gambling at on-course betting machines.

Another image from 2012 shows Mokbel and Sequenzia reuniting after the former was released from prison on drug offences.

Betfair, an internet betting agency, did not respond to a request for comment. Betfair Australasia is wholly owned by James Packer's Crown Resorts, which bought the firm from the London-listed Betfair last year.

Betfair claims to be the world's largest online betting exchange. Customers open online accounts using minimal personal information, and deposit funds to gamble. That money can be withdrawn to a linked bank account on the customer's request.

Victoria Police would not comment on why individuals had not been issued exclusion notices, but said the criteria for banning included being suspected of using racecourses for criminality, or whether it was considered to be in the public interest.

Those who are banned have their photos provided to racing authorities and track security staff.

A spokeswoman said the force was aware online betting accounts were being used to launder money. The gaming company said it worked "collaboratively" with law enforcement agencies

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