Lawyer X's biggest betrayal exposed

A man who was a drug' cook' has spoken of his betrayal by lawyer turned informer Nicole Gobbo.
A man who was a drug' cook' has spoken of his betrayal by lawyer turned informer Nicole Gobbo.

Few people have been betrayed by Lawyer X like the cook.

He knows he's not innocent. Victoria Police caught him red-handed inside drug labs when they busted them.

But now that he knows it was gangland lawyer and best friend Nicola Gobbo who served him up to detectives, he feels violated.

The cook can't be identified, but he's spoken out in a royal commission about how he put all his trust in the barrister, how she exposed him and how - when he got out of jail - she tried to recruit him to cook ice for a friend.

The royal commission has spent the past two years investigating Ms Gobbo's involvement with Victoria Police after she became informer 3838 - also known as Lawyer X.

The cook gave evidence in October 2019, when suppression orders prevented it from being known he'd spoken to the inquiry.

He was emotional and at times in disbelief learning details of her double-crossing nearly 14 years after his arrest in 2006.

Ms Gobbo was the only person he trusted to represent him when police charged him with commercial drug trafficking. He was already on bail on similar charges.

She knew he was a drug cook and when he was "working". He didn't want to incriminate her by sharing details but, in hindsight, her wilful ignorance turned into growing interest.

"Toward the end, yes, she was on a fishing expedition," he reflected while giving evidence over the phone from a secret location.

The cook is still filling in the blanks. Much of what he knows about his lawyer's secret informing he's only learned during the royal commission, some of it during his own evidence.

Police had noted Ms Gobbo looked pleased by his arrest, which was news to him.

"She looked so distressed. She was shaking her head from side to side saying 'no, I can't fix this' ... and proceeded to cry," he said of seeing her that night.

He took her hands and told her he'd be ok, but she said "they know everything".

"You're looking at 30 years minimum - you've got to do something," she told him.

The "something" was a plan she had been orchestrating with Victoria Police for months - convincing him to inform on his underworld bosses.

The cook was always going to plead guilty to the charges. The evidence was overwhelming.

But he never would have become an informer unless she'd told him to, he said.

"I'm not innocent in any of this and I did what I did, but you just can't go to these extremes of baiting people to do things," he said.

He'd connected with Ms Gobbo years earlier.

He got the feeling she just wanted to be loved and accepted. Their relationship was flirtatious but never sexual, he said.

She described it to handlers as a "cock-tease approach", but he saw it more as a workplace relationship.

While there was innuendo, crossing a line could mean losing her as his barrister and his friend.

"Was she trying to seduce me? She obviously groomed me very well," he said.

"If it had eventuated into a sexual affair ... maybe I would have told her more, I don't know."

When the cook went to jail - for significantly less than 30 years thanks to his cooperation - he maintained contact with Ms Gobbo.

In just a few months she visited him 14 times and they spoke on the phone almost daily.

"(She was) continuing to assure me that what I was doing was right," he said.

In the early days, she paid money into his prison account.

He'd organised that before he went inside, giving her $395,000 in cash in a backpack that was stashed in a kitchenette at her chambers.

It was proceeds of crime. There was $150,000 for legal fees for Ms Gobbo and $245,000 in safekeeping for him.

The inquiry heard the cook felt pressured to roll because he had financial difficulties, evidence that didn't seem to fit with his cash stash.

"That was going to be money for my retirement," he explained.

He hasn't seen a cent of the money since he got out of jail a few years ago.

Ms Gobbo, he says, claims to have no memory of getting it. It's why they fell out.

Just after the cook was released from prison she got in touch with an offer to help him pay off his pre-prison debts - by producing drugs for her business partner.

They met at a La Porchetta restaurant. She arrived in a Mercedes SUV with a man who wore a bold, gold chain around his neck and sat smoking a cigar as he put forward a proposition.

The man put a mobile phone on the table and told the cook he had contacts with chemicals.

He said "if Nicola can trust me, so can he", the cook recalled.

"I threw the phone in the bin and kept walking and that was the last time I saw either of them," he said.

Police should have known better than to use Ms Gobbo, the man says.

The legal ethics of Ms Gobbo's snitching is for the royal commission to deal with. He just wants to know "who does that to a friend?"

"I feel so violated."

The final commission report into the Lawyer X scandal was due to be handed over to Victorian Governor Linda Dessau on Monday.

Australian Associated Press