By Adam Cooper
Comancheros president Mick Murray will spend the next fortnight soaking up the sun on an overseas holiday, after a magistrate varied his bail on fraud charges so he can escape Melbourne’s winter.
Mr Murray faces 106 fraud charges and is accused of having associates falsify a loan application to a car leasing company on his behalf, which ended with him allegedly driving an $81,000 Jeep as his own.
He was granted bail when arrested last year but this week applied for the suspension of some of his bail conditions – to not leave the country and not use his passport – so he can fly to Thailand on Thursday with a friend to spend five nights in Phuket, followed by 10 days in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Despite police and prosecution concerns the 41-year-old was an unacceptable risk of not returning from his holiday, magistrate Susan Wakeling on Wednesday approved the return of his passport so the bikies boss could take his trip.
Ms Wakeling ruled the risk of Mr Murray absconding was not unacceptable given he had a financial stake in a chain of gymnasiums and his daughter, wife and other family lived in Melbourne.
Absconding would mean permanently cutting those ties, she said. Mr Murray smiled when the magistrate approved his application to vary bail.
He spent the following minutes working out when to hand over his passport when he returned from his trip, and watched a friend fill out some paperwork for a $1 million surety.
Businessman Graham Ritchie told Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday he had known Mr Murray for 20 years and had agreed to provide the surety to ensure his friend returned home. He will lose his money if Mr Murray stays abroad.
Police allege Mr Murray went to an associate wanting a “clean” car and that a group of people falsified a loan application, which ended with the Comanchero claiming the Jeep as his own. They also allege he lied about driving the Jeep and failed to pay dozens of tolls he incurred on the CityLink and EastLink roads.
Police and prosecutors opposed his application to vary bail because they believe he has the motivation not to return to face the case against him, has access to money and fake identities to stay abroad, and had previously breached court orders.’
But Ms Wakeling said there was no evidence he had breached any of his current bail conditions.
Mr Murray also allegedly owes the Australian Taxation Office $1 million and could soon face a separate charge, of entering Crown casino as a prohibited person.
But Wednesday’s ruling means he is free to fly to Thailand on Thursday. He is due to return to Melbourne on August 31 and is required to return his passport to the court that day. He and his co-accused are due to return to court on September 17 for a hearing that will determine whether they face trial.