Underbelly: articles

Tony Mokbel uses Underbelly defence

TONY Mokbel has hired the lawyer who advised accused war criminal Ratko Mladic - the so-called "Butcher of Bosnia" - to fight his extradition from Greece.

High-profile international lawyer Alexander Lykourezos will represent Mokbel, 42, at a a final appeal hearing in the Supreme Court in Athens on Tuesday.

Mr Lykourezos said rumours that his new client was ready to ``roll over'' and return to Australia were false.

"We will exhaust all legal weapons. We have grounds to fight and we are going to fight,'' he said.

Mr Lykourezos said he saw similarities between Australian media treatment of Mokbel and media coverage of accused Bosnian-Serb warlord Mladic.

The celebrity lawyer was a personal friend and one-time legal adviser to Mladic. Both Mladic and Mokbel had been totally mistreated by the media, Mr Lykourezos said.

Mokbel is portrayed in the hit TV series Underbelly, Channel Nine's dramatisation of Melbourne's underworld wars, and is played by actor Robert Mammone.

The series has been banned from being shown in Victoria because of fears it may influence potential jurors.

Mokbel's legal team plans to use the series as part of its argument against extradition.

Mr Lykourezos said he hadn't seen the series, but its existence added weight to legal argument that it was impossible for Mokbel to get a fair trial in Australia.

The lawyer has a history of accepting tough cases.

He was part of an unsuccessful bid in 1999 to prosecute NATO for alleged war crimes over its bombing of Kosovo. But he was unwilling to predict Mokbel's chances of success on Tuesday.

He said Mokbel was in good shape, physically and emotionally: "He has good morale.'' Mokbel's partner, Danielle McGuire, was also holding up in the stress of the legal battle.

"It is not a very easy period in her life. But they are optimistic,'' Mr Lykourezos said. Mokbel's legal team is still deciding whether to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, he said.

If a panel of judges decides the extradition should proceed, it could be at least a month before the Greek justice minister signs off on the paperwork.

Mokbel would be unlikely to reach Australian soil before April.

Mr Lykourezos is one of the most-celebrated lawyers in Greece.

He once spent time in exile after a military coup in Greece - then launched a lawsuit that put the dictatorship leaders behind bars for treason. He is a former head of Greek soccer and an ex-member of the Greek parliament.

Mokbel faces two murder charges and a series of drugs charges if his appeal fails.

By Fiona Hudson
March 01, 2008
The Sunday Telegraph