IT WAS ”cooking” of an illicit type that made Tony Mokbel a multimillionaire drug dealer, but it seems that his culinary skills have deteriorated during his time in the high-security unit at Barwon Prison.
As he awaits sentencing for his role as the mastermind in a trafficking empire, court documents show he has been in strife several times in the Acacia unit.
In June 2009, Mokbel was frying eggs when he was called away to appear in court by tele-link. ”The eggs were burnt, the unit filled with smoke, the alarm was activated and the Country Fire Authority was alerted,” an affidavit, by Corrections Victoria official Brendan Money, notes. ”No further action was taken.”
The other incidents offer a glimpse into what life behind bars is like for Mokbel, but his status and location in the prison system will be reviewed after his sentencing as early as today.
Like his former ally, the late Carl Williams, Mokbel received a head injury after being hit by exercise equipment in January 2010. Unlike Williams, the blow was self-inflicted and not fatal.
In May 2010, Mokbel told staff he did not want his cell searched, and that if it was, it should be left in the same condition in which it was found. If they did not comply, he threatened, he would send someone to their homes and have them searched in the same way.
And early last year, prisoners were questioned after three tin lids were found in the unit’s kitchen. Because kitchen knives had been banned, the prisoners argued, they needed the lids to ”cut things like salami”.
Generally, though, Mokbel – who had a heart attack early this year – has been a well-behaved prisoner.
The 46-year-old has passed through the first two of three prisoner incentive regimes and now enjoys privileges such as 7½ hours a day out of his cell, access to computers and games consoles, increased exercise periods with two other prisoners, special ”spends” at the canteen and the right to more personal property in his cell.
Mokbel has also won the right to more than the usual number of phone calls, making 15,828 since he was locked up in Barwon, at an average of almost 13 a day.
”Due to the number of legal issues, the defendant initially faced and the numerous legal representatives involved, he was allowed 10 personal telephone numbers and 10 legal telephone numbers listed for access through the telephone system. This is twice the allowance for any other prisoners,” Brendan Money writes.
Mokbel is released daily from his cell at 8am and returned at 3.30pm. The cells in the high-security unit are double the size of those in other units, and have a toilet, shower, handbasin and television. Mokbel has been allowed a computer, a printer and a filing cabinet.
When he is out of his cell, Mokbel can access the day room, which contains gym equipment, a table-tennis table, a kitchenette with oven, television and table and chairs. He also has access to a herb garden.
The man who once ordered takeaway pizza for prisoners and guards at the Melbourne Custody Centre shuns prison food, lunching on a small salad and cooked egg whites on toast.
He starts his day with porridge.
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