Mick Gatto’s son-in-law is appealing against a conviction for trying to possess 22 kilograms of cocaine smuggled into Australia from Mexico in Xerox printers, arguing a judge in his trial improperly addressed the jury that ultimately found him guilty.
Danny Awad – who is married to the underworld figure’s daughter, Sarah – was in November 2019 jailed for 15 years, including at least a decade before being eligible for parole, after a County Court jury found him guilty of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of cocaine.
The jury convicted Awad and friend John Tambakakis after being told that in May 2017 they began unpacking one of the printers that arrived in Melbourne with blocks of cocaine hidden in the paper trays. The total haul of cocaine found in five printers had a street value of up to $12 million.
Tambakakis was also found guilty of attempting to possess a commercial quantity of cocaine and jailed for 15 years, including 10 years before he was eligible for parole. There is no suggestion Mr Gatto was involved in the offending.
Awad, 42, and Tambakakis, 37, have since appealed against their convictions based on arguments that the jury’s verdicts were unreasonable and that the trial judge, Mark Dean, improperly instructed jurors before they began deliberations.
Bret Walker, SC, for Awad, told the Court of Appeal on Tuesday that Judge Dean instructed, rather than advised, the jury that two pieces of evidence “are” significant instead of “may be” significant. The difference in the language, Mr Walker said, meant the jury put extra emphasis on that evidence.
“The jury does not take instruction from any of the counsel [lawyers]; the jury does take instruction from the judge,” Mr Walker told the appeal judges.
The barrister did not outline which parts of the evidence he said had extra weight put on them.