Mick Gatto-linked debt
collecting company moves into the racing industry as police push for new
Tammy Mills, Nick McKenzie,
Businessman Mick Gatto. Photo:
A company linked to underworld identity Mick
Gatto is making a brazen expansion into Victoria's racing
industry, bolstering Victoria Police's push for new laws to
freeze out organised criminals and bikies from a range of
Fairfax Media can reveal Gatto Corporate
Solutions has been openly contacting Victorian racing industry
figures, with its director claiming he has already been
contracted to recover more than a million dollars worth of debt.
"Are you owed money from the horse racing
industry? Owners haven't paid their training frees?" the message
to racing figures reads. "Gatto Corporate Solutions Pty Ltd in
conjunction with Swords & Associates have recently opened a debt
collection agency specifically for the horse racing industry."
The message comes as Victorian racing
authorities, who have been aware of the company for several
months, urge industry figures to exercise "extreme caution"
before engaging any person to collect a debt.
A spokesman for Racing Victoria told Fairfax
Media that they have received complaints about "communication"
from the Gatto-linked firm and has welcomed a new push to
tighten regulation on debt collectors.
"We would support any move to license debt
collectors, whatever industry they are operating within," the
The latest push for new laws to shut down the
infiltration of outlaw motorcycle gangs in the state came on
Monday with Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana saying
Victoria Police are currently negotiating with the state
government to introduce laws that require debt collectors to
"Some particular groups are heavily involved
in debt collecting. They stand-over individuals and on occasions
they do break the law and victims are reluctant to come
forward," Mr Fontana said.
"On some occasions they're en masse, they're
in their gear and they're intimidating. They say they're doing
it because it's not illegal, 'try and stop us'."
Top police have been unsuccessfully lobbying
the state's Justice Department for 18 months to introduce
character tests for debt collectors and industrial relations
mediators and in other industries infiltrated by underworld
figures and bikies.
A spokeswoman for Attorney-General Martin
Pakula told Fairfax Media they would meet with police this week
to discuss steps the government can take to "crack down" on
bikies, including debt collection regulations.
Gatto Corporate Solutions director Anthony
Swords said he was already "four steps ahead" of any new
regulation, saying he would use a loophole where he can simply
assign a client's debt to himself.
"Any licence is null and void because I'm
collecting my own debt," he said.
Under the new business, called Victorian
Racing Collections Pty Ltd, Mr Swords said he has been asked to
recoup more than a million dollars in debt since starting up in
December because Racing Victoria fail to act on civil matters.
"Debt is rampant," Mr Swords said.
"The jobs have started rolling in from the
horse industry and now I can't stop them."
He said he was the sole director of his
company, but Mr Gatto was his "mentor" that he used as a
"If I bring him in as a mediator, I bring him
in as a mediator ... I seek a lot of advice from him, but the
company is mine," he said.
Mr Gatto, who is regarded as a senior
underworld boss with close connections to the Hells Angels,
Rebels and Comancheros bikie gangs, declined to comment.
Debt collectors no longer needed to be
licensed after a relaxation of the laws in 2011, paving the way
for bikies and organised crime figures to establish a strong
presence in the industry.
It has led to aggressive stand-over tactics to
recoup debt, with police reporting incidents of bikies issuing
phone threats, committing aggravated burglary and showing up at
private homes to intimidate victims.