Casino video linked to jockey
Danny Nikolic. Photo: Penny Stephens
Police have made a breakthrough in one of Australia's biggest race-fixing inquiries, uncovering closed-circuit TV footage of a relative of Danny Nikolic collecting winnings on a race that the disgraced jockey allegedly fixed.
The winnings collected were from bets placed by a third party police suspect was used by Nikolic to disguise his betting on the race.
The CCTV from Melbourne's Crown Casino is likely to form part of any criminal case against Nikolic and jockey Mark Zahra over allegations they conspired to manipulate the outcome of a race won by Smoking Aces at Cranbourne in April 2011.
Zahra is alleged to have been paid $3000 by Nikolic to ride his horse in a way that favoured Nikolic's mount, Smoking Aces.
Police recently completed a brief of evidence against Nikolic and sent it to the Office of Public Prosecutions.
Nikolic was disqualified for two years last month after being found guilty by Racing Victoria's Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board of threatening Victoria's chief racing steward Terry Bailey.
As the racing world waits to see if Nikolic is charged, Victoria Police have been ramping up their campaign to ban underworld figures from racetracks and the casino.
More banning orders have been issued in the past year than at any time in the past six years.
Offenders have received notices because of suspicions they are laundering money, corrupting officials and consorting with criminals.
Fairfax Media recently revealed that two of those banned so far in 2012 are Danny Nikolic and his brother, former horse trainer John, who is also implicated in the Smoking Aces scandal.
Police said casino and racing exclusion notices kept crime figures and undesirables in check. The notices stopped them flashing their wealth in gaming rooms and betting rings.
Detective Superintendent Neil Paterson would not reveal the episodes that had led to the notices, but Fairfax Media understands Asian crime gangs have adopted new methods at Crown Casino to launder profits from burgeoning drug enterprises.
There have also been several revelations regarding racing this year, including race-fixing inquiries. Ten people were placed on the register this year, the most since 2006 - the year Tony Mokbel, who was issued with an exclusion order in 2005, fled the country while on bail for drugs charges, and when gangland identity Mario Condello was gunned down.
Forty-four people have been banned, with no orders lapsed, and Superintendent Paterson said he could not recall a notice being appealed.
He said it was hard to measure if banning more offenders reduced crime, but there was no doubt the integrity of the casino and racecourses was better protected by reducing the chance for criminals to legitimise their wealth.
The notices apply only to the Crown complex, despite some poker machine players at suburban gaming venues recently being asked to exchange their winners' cheques for cash by potential money launderers loitering nearby.
Crown Melbourne spokesman Gary O'Neill would not comment on the orders but said the casino had a close working relationship with police.