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Mick Gatto-linked debt collecting company moves into the racing industry as police push for new laws


Tammy Mills, Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker

Businessman Mick Gatto.

Businessman Mick Gatto. Photo: Graham Tidy


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 sectors.

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 spokesman said.

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 have licences.

"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 mediator.

"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.