The brother of a man who shot dead controversial businessman Michael McGurk will face trial on accessory to murder charges next year after he failed to convince a judge that the case against him was weak and unfair.
Bassam Safetli, 49, is accused of helping and harbouring his brother Haissam Safetli, knowing that he had murdered Mr McGurk in September 2009.
According to court documents, the day after the murder he laughed at his brother for burning the money in his pockets along with his clothes when he destroyed the evidence, and ribbed the alleged gunmen for being described as “professionals”.
Mr Safetli applied to have the case thrown out on grounds that the delay in prosecuting him had brought the justice system into disrepute and that there was no prima facie case against him.
He also claimed he could not receive a fair trial because the prosecution had access to information he had given in a statement to the NSW Crime Commission on the understanding it would not be used in criminal proceedings against him.
Haissam Safetli pleaded guilty in August 2013 to murdering Mr McGurk and intimidating his widow, allegedly on behalf of property developer Ron Medich to settle some business disputes.
Mr Medich’s former friend Lucky Gattellari is serving a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to being an accessory before the fact of murder. He admitted to organising a payment of $300,000 for Haissam Safetli and his alleged partner Christopher Estephan to perform the hit.
Bassam Safetli stands accused of having intimate knowledge of the crime.
According to the Crown brief of evidence tendered to the NSW District Court, he sent a text message to Gattellari a few minutes after Haissam Safetli returned to the house they shared on the night of the murder: “The job is done.”
A short time later he is alleged to have sent a second message to Gattellari’s driver Senad Kaminic saying: “The tyres are done.”
Kaminic was initially confused by the message, because he had actually asked Mr Safetli to do some work on a car.
“Did you do a wheel alignment?” he fired back.
Mr Safetli: “Yeah we did the whole lot. The job is done? You know what I mean?”
Kaminic: “Yeah ok I’ll pass on the message to Lucky.”
Kaminic later told police that when he arrived at Haissam Safetli’s house with a $20,000 payment the following day, he found the brothers chatting about the murder on the verandah with Mr Estephan and a fourth man, Adam Chahine.
Bassam Safetli was alleged to have been jocular.
“Everyone thinks it was a professional hit,” he allegedly said. “Look at these professionals.”
He pointed to people on verandah and laughed. Then he allegedly gestured to his brother.
“The idiot burnt his clothes when he got home and the money in his pockets too.”
Mr Safetli is accused of accompanying Haissam to meet Kaminic to receive cash, and paying Mr Estephan three instalments of $10,000 as payment for the murder.
Later, when Gattellari and Kaminic were embroiled in a dispute over payment for the hit, he is alleged to have said: “Sort this shit out or we’ll all end up in jail.”
But in applying for a permanent stay on the charges, he claimed that most of the particulars in the case against him were available to the prosecution as early as November 2010 and the delay in proceedings represented a miscarriage of justice.
Part of the reason he was being prosecuted was to “shore up the credibility of Crown witnesses against Ron Medich at his trial”, his legal team argued in written submissions to the court.
In previous proceedings Mr Medich’s counsel had pointed out that Mr Safetli had not been charged with any offence.
Judge David Frearson rejected the application. The trial is listed for April 2018.