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Stepping out from behind cover

“Spying is the hardest of all the great professions. We became spies rather than undercover cops,” says Colin McLaren, the former Victorian police officer and author of Infiltration, The True Story Of The Man Who Cracked The Mafia.
During his three-year period of infiltration in Griffith, McLaren would spend evenings and weeks with the criminals he was tracking, where nothing illegal was discussed.
It was a matter of building the layers of friendship until it got to the point that the person would wake up one day and realise that McLaren was his second best friend.
“There were lots of long boring dinners,” he said.
“These criminals were not my choice of dinner companion,” said McLaren.
It’s hard to go along to family occasions with these people if you don’t care for them as people. It’s difficult to sustain that, say McLaren.
McLaren’s cover was an art dealer. You have to have a cover that works for you, that you can carry off comfortably, he said. He had a flat in a smart suburb that was his ‘gallery’ and his identity was listed with Sotheby’s and Christies.
Domenico (Mick) Cacciola, Sicilian born, and a former policeman in Queensland, is the author of The Second Father, An Insiders Guide off Cops, Crime and Corruption. Cacciola joined Queensland police in the 1960s and became a ‘sleeper’ infiltrating illegal gambling dens. He spoke of the toll of the Southport case. He lost his hair, at an age when he was too young to do so, caused by the stress of the Southport case.
He recalls typing up a 15-page report and sending it to the Assistant Commissioner about corruption and never receiving a reply. It’s got to be a lonely place.
Corrupt cops could never understand why Cacciola couldn’t be corrupted. He attributes this to his upbringing, and strong family support he received. Bent colleagues and superiors thought that surely a man with a mortgage, two kids and another on the way, would buckle but Cacciola never was tempted. They couldn’t understand it why he wouldn’t take the money.
If I ever needed money, I would ask my mother, he said. “If I said Mum, we can’t pay the electricity bill this week, she would say ‘how much do you need?”
Cacciola recruited a cleaner as an informer. She would inform him in Italian.
When McClaren’s work as an infiltrator came to an end one day when he was found by his controller in his apartment curled up in the foetal position. He woke up three days later in a clinic where various celebrities, and leading business people were also staying. In recent weeks Tony Fitzgerald said that police corruption is worse in Queensland now than at the time of the inquiry.
Cacciola says that some cops remained crooked throughout the inquiry. “Some squads never got on top of that,” he said.
McLaren believes that corruption has fallen back but he doesn’t think administration
has improved. Both men have very little to do with the police any more.
While they don’t live in fear, each has their own protection strategies. Cacciola always sits in the corner of restaurants so he can see everyone in the room. McClaren does not reveal where he lives.
There is much more that could be said here but I recommend reading both books for that.

By Marian Edmunds


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