Underbelly: articles

Gatto hosts event for accused killer

GANGLAND identity Mick Gatto is under fire for hosting a charity event to raise money for the legal defence of an accused underworld killer.

Fairfax newspapers report business leaders, builders and trade unionists are being pressured to attend the $1000-a-head event, at the Atlantic function room at Melbourne's Docklands on September 17, to raise money for Faruk Orman, who is charged with the 2002 murder of armed robber Victor Peirce.

The event is expected to raise $500,000 to cover the fees for defence barrister Robert Richter, QC. The ticket buys a three-course meal and entertainment by singer Vanessa Amorosi.

Cricketer Shane Warne and boxer Jeff Fenech are believed to have donated memorabilia for an auction on the night.

But not all those approached wanted to pay, Fairfax said.

"To be honest, I don't want to stump up $10,000 for a bloke I've never met. And there's no way I want to be seen at something like that," one businessman said.

He said Mr Gatto had "put the hard word" on several business associates to attend.

A union member said he was not going but knew several union officials who were going.

"I don't want to say too much, but there will be a few union blokes heading along," he said. "But it really has nothing to do with the union; it's more them supporting Mick."

The event has outraged police and the Crime Victims Support Association detectives, but Mr Gatto denied pressuring anyone to go.

"All the people that are coming are coming because they're friends of mine and they support an innocent man," he said.

"It's completely lawful what we're doing, and I do it with my head held high. We look after our friends, we don't hang them out to dry."

Mr Gatto was implicated in Peirce's murder in March after the Melbourne Magistrates' Court heard claims from a police informer that Mr Gatto had ordered the murder of Frank Benvenuto in 2000.

"About two years after Frank's murder, Andrew (Veniamin) said he heard Peirce had found out it was him who had killed Frank and he was worried that Peirce was going to get revenge on him and Mick Gatto," Fairfax quoted the informer as saying.

Mr Gatto has denied any involvement with the two murders.

Orman was also at La Porcella restaurant when Mr Gatto killed underworld hitman Veniamin, and later gave evidence at Gatto's trial.

Mr Gatto was acquitted of Veniamin's murder.

August 27, 2008