Jail ’con­fes­sion’ blows lid on big­gest un­solved heist

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - BRENDEN HILLS COURT RE­PORTER

A VI­O­LENT crim­i­nal ac­quit­ted of a $6 mil­lion string of ar­moured van heists could be re­tried after be­ing taped brag­ging about how he had lied in court. The man, whose name is sup­pressed, faced court this week on per­jury charges after telling a jail in­mate he was vis­it­ing how he gave false ev­i­dence to es­cape con­vic­tion. If found guilty it may open the way for a re­trial over the 2009 rob­beries.

ON a visit to Lith­gow jail, one of the coun­try’s most dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals is boast­ing to an in­mate how he re­peat­edly lied in court. It is an un­wit­ting con­fes­sion that is about to blow the state’s most no­to­ri­ous armed rob­bery case wide open.

Just months ear­lier, the vis­i­tor was ac­quit­ted of steal­ing $6 mil­lion in a string of ar­moured van heists in which an AK-47 ma­chine­gun was used. As a newly free man in early 2013, he had gone to visit his friend in jail for a catch-up.

Dur­ing two vis­its, he al­legedly told the in­mate how he lied on the stand to beat charges over the Ar­ma­guard and Chubb van rob­beries in 2009, which in­cluded steal­ing bul­let­proof vests from po­lice and hi­jack­ing high-per­for­mance sports cars across Syd­ney.

What the men, whose names are sup­pressed, didn’t know was that some­one was eaves­drop­ping. Po­lice had planted a lis­ten­ing de­vice un­der the ta­ble.

Those record­ings landed the man back in court last week charged with per­jury over his ev­i­dence dur­ing the marathon five-month armed rob­bery trial in which he was one of four de­fen­dants found not guilty.

If con­victed in the new, judge-only trial, the pos­si­bil­ity was raised in court that he may be re­tried for the rob­beries, from which only $500,000 has ever been re­cov­ered.

For po­lice, the per­jury charges in­volve an el­e­ment of luck. The court heard it was homi­cide po­lice who planted the bug and the tar­get had been the in­mate, who was a sus­pect in a mur­der.

But when the con­ver­sa­tion turned to the other man’s court de­cep­tion, the record­ings were passed to the Rob­bery and Se­ri­ous Crime Squad.

In ar­gu­ing to have the case thrown out, the de­fen­dant’s high-pro­file solic­i­tor Si­mon Joyner has writ­ten to the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions to clar­ify whether the prose­cut­ing of­fice is “seek­ing to re­lit­i­gate my client for the armed rob­bery of­fences”. The man’s bar­ris­ter, Mark Austin, told the court the DPP has so far left the mat­ter “as an open ques­tion”.

Sec­tion 101 of the Crimes (Ap­peal and Re­view) Act says the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Prose­cu­tions can ap­ply to the NSW Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peal for a mat­ter to be sent for a re­trial if the not-guilty find­ing is a “tainted ac­quit­tal”.

The con­ver­sa­tions in ques­tion al­legedly took place at the prison on Fe­bru­ary 24 and March 10 in 2013.

What the pros­e­cu­tion must prove is that the man was telling the truth in an un­guarded mo­ment, rather than sim­ply em­bel­lish­ing for the sake of a good story. If it fails, he will be ac­quit­ted again.

In the time since he was found not guilty of the armed rob­beries, the de­fen­dant has ce­mented his rep­u­ta­tion as one of the most feared men in NSW and is serv­ing a long prison sen­tence for other of­fences.

Prose­cu­tors al­lege the Lith­gow record­ings show the man lied three times while giv­ing ev­i­dence in Septem­ber 2012.

Two of the lies re­late to “Mr X” — a drug dealer whose iden­tity is sup­pressed after he rolled over to be­come the star pros­e­cu­tion wit­ness in the arme­drob­bery trial.

The man gave ev­i­dence at his trial that Mr X had ar­rived at his apart­ment in “the toaster” build­ing at Cir­cu­lar Quay ask­ing if he could leave a BMW car key and a bag con­tain­ing a bal­a­clava and neck warmer at his apart­ment. He said Mr X needed to hide the items be­cause he was on the run over the armed rob­bery of the Chubb base in Lane Cove, where about $2 mil­lion was stolen.

Po­lice found the items dur­ing a raid on the apart­ment. The key matched a BMW M3 found in a Mar­rickville garage that had seven firearms, large amounts of am­mu­ni­tion and a stolen po­lice vest in the boot.

But on Thurs­day, Crown pros­e­cu­tor John Tabuteau told the court that the jail record­ings re­vealed the man’s ev­i­dence was “made up”.

Mr Tabuteau said the man was also ly­ing when he claimed Mr X was re­spon­si­ble for the rob­beries. The jail record­ings al­legedly cap­tured the man say- ing Mr X “has never done a rob­bery in his life”.

The third al­leged lie was when the man threat­ened to have Assyr­i­ans ap­proach Mr X’s sis­ter, Mr Tabuteau told the court. The man claimed he was at­tempt­ing to get Mr X to con­fess that the ac­cused was not in­volved in the rob­beries and his ev­i­dence was made up.

But the real rea­son was to pres­sure Mr X into re­tract­ing his state­ment and not turn up to court, Mr Tabuteau claimed.

The ar­moured van heists were among the most brazen the state has ever seen.

Be­tween Jan­uary 12 and June 22, 2009, six ar­moured vans be­long­ing to Chubb and Lin­fox Ar­ma­guard were robbed while de­liv­er­ing cash to ATMs.

In the most dar­ing rob­bery on April 20, a num­ber of men raided the Chubb base in Lane Cove just after 3.30am.

Bal­a­clava- wear­ing gun­men hi­jacked a cash-filled van and forced the guards to drive it through the front gate, where a stolen Audi RS4 sta­tion wagon was wait­ing.

While load­ing about $2 mil­lion into the Audi, one of the men stood in the back of the truck and fired at ap­proach­ing se­cu­rity guards, be­fore speed­ing off in the get­away car.

Po­lice gather ev­i­dence after an ar­moured Chubb Se­cu­rity van was

am­bushed in Lane Cove in 2009.

The man’s le­gal

team, Mark Austin (left) and Si­mon Joyner,

at court last week. Pic­ture:

Sam Rut­tyn

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