IN the underworld, secrets that don’t stay secret can get you killed, or locked up a long time. Yet cunning criminals who would hardly trust their mothers, let alone police or other crooks, mostly trust lawyers the way churchgoers used to trust priests.
They are suckers for confidentiality because it’s so rare in their dog-eat-dog world.
An example. Lewis Moran, the late underworld figure fatally close to the heart of the underworld war, once told a lawyer he knew exactly who had killed the gangland gunman Dino Dibra. He also knew why.
Intrigued, the lawyer asked the feared old-time crook why he was so sure he had the answer to a murder that police had not been able to crack.
“Because I killed him,” Moran replied as if he were talking about a parking ticket.
It was simple, Moran explained: killing the violent Dibra (at Sunshine in October 2000) was payback for the murder of his stepson Mark Moran outside his Aberfeldie home exactly four months earlier. An eye for an eye, a bullet for a bullet.
The lawyer didn’t doubt the story. Still doesn’t. He was probably the only person alive that Moran would trust with a murder confession, which had come up in a conversation about police and media theories that Carl Williams “pulled the trigger” on Mark Moran.
The Dibra story was another secret “in the vault”. The lawyer told no one until long after Moran was shot dead by a hitman at the bar of the Brunswick Club in 2004. As a legal advocate, he wasn’t big on propriety, but confidentiality always mattered — which explains why lying, cheating crooks trust some lawyers with truths they won’t tell anyone else.
At least, that’s the way it was until Lawyer X torched the rulebook with a string of betrayals that some people guessed at long before the news of her being a double agent filtered through police and legal circles to the underworld.
“I could never work out why I lost clients to her,” says one veteran barrister. “Maybe I couldn’t give the same service.”
A retired criminal lawyer said flatly this week: “I never trusted her.”
Neither did well-known “gangland lawyer” Zarah Garde-Wilson, the quiet achiever who has spent the last week explaining to anxious relatives and others outside the legal bubble that, no, she is not Lawyer X.
In fact, during the gangland war Garde-Wilson warned people not to trust Lawyer X. Garde-Wilson, as careful and considered as Lawyer X was outspoken, says her professional rival hated her “because I told people she was a police informer”.
Garde-Wilson’s shrewd deduction probably explains why Carl Williams described Lawyer X as a “dog” (informer) before it was common knowledge, not that it helped him once he decided to do some informing of his own in jail.
The handling of Williams after his arrest in 2004 tells us something