Underbelly: articles

John Ibrahim and Underbelly 3

KINGS Cross nightclub entrepreneur John Ibrahim saw the television potential in the story years ago.

"Forget Melrose Place," he said in 1996, referring to the blockbuster drama of the decade. "The Royal Commission is a better soapie."

Now, John Ibrahim and a cast of Kings Cross identities, crooks, heavies and bent cops called before the Wood Royal Commission into police corruption will be immortalised in Channel Nine's third part-fact, part-fiction instalment of Underbelly.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal the new series will pick up where hit man Chris Flannery, drug dealer Robert Trimbole, and race fixer and illegal gambling den owner George Freeman left off in Underbelly: A Tale Of Two Cities.

Underbelly 3: The Golden Mile, will be filmed in and around Sydney in August and the drama series will focus on the decade from 1989 to 1999.

A senior Nine source yesterday confirmed the early adult life of Ibrahim, 38 - a man said to revel in his moniker, King of the Cross, and who bears stabbing scars and apparent bullet holes on his torso - would feature.

Mr Ibrahim has vehemently denied having any involvement in drug dealing, both before the Commission and in media interviews.

He was convicted of assault as a teenager and, while he is the subject of hundreds of police intelligence reports, has not since been convicted of any serious criminal offence. He now has an interest in 17 nightclubs in Kings Cross and Darlinghurst.

The Wood Royal Commission, which exposed endemic corruption within the NSW Police in Kings Cross in the 1990s, is an important source of storylines for the series.

"It's all about the sexiness of the nightclubs, the young guys coming through and the cops getting busted," the source said.

The Royal Commission also delved into pedophilia, but this is not featured in the new series.

"We're not going near pedophilia," the insider said.

Another key character in the series would be Kim Hollingsworth, who was dumped from the Goulburn Police Academy in 1995 after it was revealed she was previously working as a prostitute.

The Sunday Telegraph understands Nine's representatives have met Mr Ibrahim, himself easily mistaken for a tanned and buff small-screen star. They made him an offer to assist the writers with the series, but were knocked back.

Mr Ibrahim's lawyer, Stephen Alexander, told The Sunday Telegraph that in the last series most of the people portrayed were now dead. The focus of the new series is living people, with wives and families and reputations to protect, he said.

"It's a lot easier to make movies or documentaries with people that have passed on," Mr Alexander said. "It's a free country and people are entitled to do what they do, but I hope they have their facts right."

Mr Ibrahim was an unwilling witness before the Wood Royal Commission, which began taking evidence in 1995. Its six-volume report, handed down in 1997, triggered widespread reform of the police force.

Mr Ibrahim became the licensee of a Kings Cross nightclub at age 19 and, while keeping his record clean, grew up with some of the Sydney criminal world's most notable families. He used to be a driver and bodyguard for George Freeman and is now in partnership with Freeman's sons, Adam Sonny and David George, in a nightclub in Kings Cross called Lady Lux. Another family friendship, with convicted cocaine dealer Bill Bayeh and his brother Louie, ended on October 18, 1995, the day that Mr Ibrahim gave evidence before the Commission and a bugged conversation between supergrass Trevor Haken and Bill Bayeh was played.

After the tape was heard, counsel assisting the Commission, John Agius SC, put to Mr Ibrahim: "Well, you're the new lifeblood of the drug industry in Kings Cross, aren't you?"

"So it would seem but, no, I am not," Mr Ibrahim replied.

No charges were laid against Mr Ibrahim following the inquiry. He was 25 when he gave evidence before the Commission and for six years had been the owner of the Kings Cross nightclub Tunnel Cabaret. He told the Commission he had had a two-month affair with a young constable from Kings Cross police, Wendy Hatfield.

The Commission heard Mr Ibrahim and Ms Hatfield took a midweek getaway to go out on a dive boat off Forster.

Ms Hatfield, who resigned from the force, denied at the Commission she had had a sexual relationship with Mr Ibrahim but accepted she did go away with him on the dive boat.

Mr Ibrahim's bare torso caused quite a stir on board the dive boat and he was asked to explain before the Commission how he got two big scars and what appeared to be bullet holes. He said he had been stabbed when he was 16.

"The stabbing I had caused the original scar that starts at my rib cage and leads down. The other scar under my arm was to access (in surgery) my right lung which had become flooded and punctured. A rib was taken out," he said.

By Jennifer Sexton and Richard Clune
The Sunday Telegraph
June 07, 2009