Underbelly: articles

TV drama Underbelly under fire

PRODUCTION of Channel 9s Underbelly series has been disrupted by high-profile gangland lawyer George Defteros, who yesterday threatened a Supreme Court writ.

Mr Defteros, charged but cleared of conspiracy to murder at the height of the underworld war, is a central figure in the 13-part TV drama due to hit the screens next month.

The series is expected to focus on his relationship with slain mafia kingpin Alphonse Gangitano.

Mr Defteros, who has since resumed his law practice, has engaged top Melbourne defamation specialist Stewart Gibson.

"Any attempt to depict me as a lawyer of low impropriety and unethical behaviour will be met with legal proceedings instituted by my lawyers," Mr Defteros said yesterday.

"I regard the depiction of the gangland wars, in particular my role as a lawyer acting for parties, as nothing more than farcical and pure pantomine. We'll be watching it very closely."

A Nine spokeswoman yesterday said there would now be no direct reference to Mr Defteros, despite earlier publicity to the contrary.

"There is no lawyer called Defteros in Underbelly," Michelle Stamper said.

But Mr Defteros said he could still be defamed by implication.

"It's already been advertised as me," he said.

Mr Defteros also took aim at the actor who will portray him, George Kapiniaris of Wogs out of Work fame.

"It is absurd to suggest that an actor with a comical background such as George Kapiniaris could have any appreciation of the legal obligations and very real stresses involved in representing people who have been charged with extremely serious criminal offences," he said.

Mr Defteros was charged with conspiracy to murder and incitement to murder in June 2004 for his part in an alleged plot by Mario Condello to execute three rival crime figures, including Carl Williams. At the time of his arrest, Purana detectives accused Mr Defteros of arranging a series of meetings between Condello and a supposed hitman, who was actually a police informer.

But Director of Public Prosecutions Paul Coghlan, QC, dropped the case due to a lack of evidence.

The charges against Condello proceeded until he was executed by a gunman in his Brighton driveway in February last year.

The police informer at the centre of the charges, identified as Witness 166, has since been forced out of Victoria's witness protection program.

He was axed because he was no longer considered at risk and for unacceptable behaviour while under protection, but he is appealing against the decision.

Mr Defteros' former clients include Tony Mokbel and underworld war victims Lewis Caine, Mario Condello, Graham "The Munster" Kinniburgh and Gangitano.

By Michael Warner
January 26, 2008
Herald Sun