Meet the man who looks after bikie gangs
From: The Sunday Times
November 19, 2011
ON a side street tucked away from Fremantle's bustling cappuccino strip, Michael Tudori sips a macchiato washed down with sparkling mineral water - as traditional Italians do.
It's a suburb not dissimilar to his childhood, growing up around Northbridge where his father Lawrence and uncle Bert became kings of illegal gambling in the 1970s before Burswood Casino took over the market.
"It was a very colourful childhood," Mr Tudori, 40, said. "Northbridge was a great place as a kid.
"My Nonna, my grandmother, lived in Parker St. In the back lane there were a whole lot of Italian carpentry shops. You had the Peter's Ice Cream factory in Northbridge. You would go to the Re Store and all the Italian places around. It was a wonderful place as a kid growing up, it was always very colourful and it was safe."
It was Mr Tudori's Italian migrant father, an open wariness of police and a keen interest in 1980s courtroom TV drama LA Law that encouraged his entry into law after graduating from John XXIII College in Mt Claremont.
"I remember as a child coming home (from school) and I knew I'd cop flak on the bus because Dad had been arrested that night for running the gambling clubs," he said.
"We always knew when the clubs were going to be raided. The police would ring us. It was just all part of the process. They would all get taken down to the lock-up. Dad or my uncle would pay away everyone's fines and they would have an after party, a bail-out party.
"In those days the magistrate would say: 'Laurie or Bert were you up or down?' If they were down they would keep the fine down, but if they were up that night the fine had to be a bit higher that time. That's just the way that Perth worked in those days. I've seen police corruption first-hand. I've seen police getting paid off in the days before gambling finally became quashed because of Burswood and I think that has always stuck in my mind. Police are fallible.
"You get brought up thinking you can always trust a police officer, and you do and you must instil that faith in your children. But time has shown, especially in WA that if anything, the police are the biggest gang in WA."
His list of past clients reads like a Who's Who of high profile WA cases: former West Coast Eagle Daniel Chick, notorious pedophile Bradley Pendragon and Fabian Quaid's associate Dimitrios Papadimitriou, who was charged with conspiring to traffic 45kg of ecstasy in 2008.
He acted for Robert McLeod and his two sons in their controversial acquittal over the assault of Constable Matt Butcher, who was left partially paralysed.
And now his client base comprises hulky, tattooed motorcycle riding folk the Rebels Motorcycle Club and several individual Coffin Cheaters.
"Once they trust you, it grows. But that doesn't mean that I compromise myself for anybody or anything. Once you have their trust, it's like anything, you build up a business working relationship," Mr Tudori said.
"About 15 years ago the first bikie case that I did was a bikie who got into a fight at an old beaten-up pub in the city and the bouncers got the better of him and took to him with pool cues. He went over the road and bought a slit-throat razor and went down and gave his own back."
Bikies live by a code of silence similar to the Italian mafia, flaunt their membership by sporting club "colours" and call themselves "one per centers" in the belief they are apart from 99 per cent of society.
Police say they engage in violent turf wars over drugs and the State Government has mounted its strongest bid to break gangs with its proposed Criminal Organisations Control Bill, which could stop members associating. But Mr Tudori said authorities were misguided in targeting bikies as the main perpetrators of drug manufacture and organised crime in WA.
However, he conceded there were criminal elements.
"I remember once, a bikie said to me: 'We aren't organised crime, we are disorganised'. And that's the reality of it," Mr Tudori said.
"The entity itself is not like this all-encompassing organisation that manufactures drugs.
"I've just finished watching the last season of Breaking Bad, and that is organised crime. It's not like that. Of course there are some members who commit offences but as a proportion, it's remarkably small.
"These days, the majority of them are ageing bikies. They just don't want to be troubled with the police. A good majority of them don't want to have the police kicking their door down at 5am or 6am executing a warrant. They just want to live their normal life and still maintain their association of once or twice weekly meetings at the clubhouse, drink beer and hang out."
Mr Tudori said he had already taken instruction from the Rebels, the first WA bikie club in police sights if the proposed anti-association laws get through Parliament, and had briefed QCs in the eastern states.
Under the laws, bikie gangs could be declared criminal organisations, while individuals including patched members, former members, nominees and associates could be hit with control orders banning them from associating and visiting certain places.
"When the (former Labor) government brought in the asset confiscation laws, it was a great government and police PR stunt. They had (then Director of Public Prosecutions) Robert Cock and (then Attorney-General) Jim McGinty on a motorbike outside of Parliament saying we're here to get organised crime," Mr Tudori said.
"Well, they never got organised crime because organised crime was already one step ahead. Instead, they've got all the other people caught up in this."
Mr Tudori said he had never felt threatened representing Perth's bikie set, but felt the onslaught after the McLeods acquittal over the assault on Constable Butcher packing up his wife and two young daughters and relocating to the South-West until the dust settled.
"The only time I've ever felt threatened was just after we got the acquittal on the McLeods and that's when there were all the Facebook pages set up (that were) anti-lawyers, anti-me," he said. "We had threatening phone calls and the reality of that was that, yes, some of them may have been concerned citizens, but I have no doubt that some of them were probably police."