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Brothel's insurance claim rejected over bikie links

Date

Anne Davies

Brothel row: Fidel Tukel.

Brothel row: Fidel Tukel. Photo: Facebook

Is failing to disclose you are a member of an outlaw bikie gang sufficient reason for a company to invalidate your insurance policy?

That's the question before the Supreme Court of NSW in a case that could have lasting impacts for the adult entertainment industry.

Stealth Enterprises, whose shareholders are Fidel and Baris Tukel, are taking on Calliden Insurance after a fire at their brothel, the Gentlemen's Club, in Mitchell in the ACT in January 2012. The plaintiffs say their policy entitles them to up to $770,000 for damage to property and $250,000 for disruption to business.

The defendant, who had a special insurance package for the adult industry, has refused to pay the claim, saying the company invalidated its insurance by failing to tell it the Tukels had connections to the Comancheros bikie gang.

The fire took place on New Year's Day, when the brothel was closed. Firefighters arrived within 10 minutes and prevented the fire from spreading, but there was considerable damage to the Gentlemen's Club.

The next day, police told The Canberra Times they suspected arson, and forensic investigators were called in. The business has not re-opened.

The online descriptions of the Gentlemen's Club boasted that it was a ''5-star establishment'' with ''imported artwork and plush decor which was styled by one of Australia's top interior decorators''.

But soon after the claim was lodged, the insurance company refused to pay it on the basis that Stealth Enterprises was owned by Baris and Fidel Tukel. Baris Tukel is the sole director of Stealth Enterprises and Fidel described himself as manager when he signed a declaration attached to the policy.

The insurance company says Baris Tukel was a member of the Comancheros when the company took out the policy. His brother Fidel was an associate or member of the motorcycle club known as the Rebels, or alternatively the Finks or the Comancheros.

It is common ground between the parties that the connection of an insured with undesirable or criminal elements is a matter material to the question of whether the insurer would underwrite the risk. The expression used often in this context is ''moral hazard''.

However, the plaintiffs have argued that the defendant is not entitled to the information it is seeking.

So how does one go about proving a person is a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang?

The first step the insurance company took was to write to the brothers, and attaching media articles and asking them to answer 26 questions about their associations and membership of the Comancheros and the Rebels.

In 2010, Baris Tukel was part of an investigation by The Age and the ABC's Four Corners which revealed that police intelligence gathered by multiple law enforcement agencies had been leaked to the Comancheros.

Fidel, a boxing promoter, was pictured in 2012 with members of the Melbourne Demons AFL team in Las Vegas andwas described as ''having close links with the Comancheros and Rebels''.

The plaintiffs refused to answer the questions.

A subpoena to the NSW Police and the Australian Federal police asking for information on the brothers was ruled a ''fishing expedition'' in June and any documents obtained were sealed by the court.

However, the defendant has obtained photographs and police reports showing Baris Tukel was allegedly pulled over wearing full colours of the Comancheros twice in 2010.

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