Office of Special Investigator says its Lawyer X probe is being hampered

A probe into the Lawyer X scandal has burned through nearly all of its $20m in funding and is battling to obtain secret documents.

Nicola Gobbo with gangland boss Carl Williams and underworld hit man Andrew `Benji’ Veniamin at the height of the gangland war.

Victoria’s Office of Special Investigator says its probe of the Lawyer X scandal is being hampered and it needs more money or powers to uncover the truth.

Special investigator Geoffrey Nettle will lobby the ­Andrews government for a budget boost as he examines whether any crimes were committed by Victoria Police officers or lawyer turned ­informer Nicola Gobbo.

The Office of Special ­Investigator has been battling to obtain secret documents and is fighting to unredact thousands more as Mr Nettle compiles a brief of evidence into the use of Gobbo as “human source 3838”.

But the Herald Sun can ­reveal the OSI has burned through nearly all of its $20m in funding. Mr Nettle, a former High Court justice, made his frustrations clear, describing the OSI’s progress as “extraordinarily time consuming and expensive”.

Flagging a need for ­additional funding and investigative powers, he cited “statutory secrecy made by a bevy of law enforcement agencies” as a key reason the OSI was being “impeded by factors beyond its control”.

Nicola Gobbo was a police informant during during Melbourne’s gangland wars.

“Unlike some other investigative organisations, such as, for example, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, OSI does not have statutory power in relation to the investigation of possible criminal offences to compel persons to answer questions, or to compel the production of records, or to override unspecified or generic Crown claims of privilege,” he said.

During the 2019-20 Lawyer X royal commission, ­Victoria Police redacted significant amounts of sensitive intelligence.

Lawyers and police officers blacked out slabs of information it did not want made public before handing over documents. Other documents were not handed over due to legal privilege or secrecy ­provisions.

Special investigator Geoffrey Nettle.

To gain access to these documents or have them unredacted, the OSI must go to court.

Mr Nettle said he would not identify individuals or organisations who have helped or impeded its probe to date.

“For the time being, it would be ill-advised for the OSI to identify those persons and organisations who have so far assisted OSI and those who have refused to do so,” he stated.

“These are matters which, by and large, should remain confidential until OSI’s investigations have been concluded or, possibly, the Director of Public Prosecutions has determined whether a prosecution should proceed.”

Former Chief Commissioner Simon Overland.

It is understood Victoria Police current and former members who were Ms Gobbo’s handlers have not ­assisted the OSI. Among the officers Mr Nettle may be investigating over their conduct are former chief commissioners Simon Overland and Graham Ashton.

If Mr Nettle finds criminal offences were committed, he will hand a brief of evidence to Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions to consider charges.

The Office of ­Special Investigator began its work into the Lawyer X scandal in December 2021 and was allocated an initial $13.5m to complete its work.

It was given a further funding boost in the 2022-2023 budget, splitting $3.2m with the Victorian Inspectorate and a further $4.4m as part of last year’s Victorian Economic and Fiscal Update.

But the Herald Sun has been told the near $20m is fast running out due to the costly battle for answers.

It is believed Mr Nettle wants to increase his staff by at least 10, including hiring more lawyers.

 Ms Gobbo, who was the go-to lawyer for Melbourne’s underworld during the gangland war, provided police ­crucial information about her own clients that helped “roll” underworld hit men and drug cooks against high-profile gangland bosses such as Tony Mokbel and Carl Williams.An Andrews government spokesman said it supported the work of the OSI but could not comment on any extra funding.


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