Lazar emphasised that he wanted the gold bar back, and by August 21 he was crying on the phone as he told the officer he couldn’t make a statement because he was a mess.
“I need that bar back so I can get money back into my bank and pay bills,” Lazar said.
Immediately after the call he rang his associate Achilles “Big Al” Constantinidis, who was once a partner in a piggery with former prime minister Paul Keating until the pair fell out in the mid-1990s.
Lazar told Constantinidis, “I just don’t understand why I’m being harassed … can you do something?”
Constantinidis assured him something was being done. The next day, Constantinidis said the officer was “gonna end up in Timbuktu” and vowed: “I will do anything it f—ing takes to take this prick down.”
The pair faced a judge-alone trial in the NSW District Court last year, accused of doing an act with intent to pervert the course of justice by asking an alleged standover man “Witness B” to get Detective Roberts off the case.
On Friday, Judge Kate Traill found Constantinidis and Lazar guilty.
Giving evidence in the trial, Witness B said Constantinidis told him in 2012, “Do whatever it takes. Break his legs, break his arm. Do whatever it takes, just get rid of him. Get him out of the way.”
Judge Traill said when Witness B gave evidence he was “clearly affected by drugs”, slurred his words and even fell asleep in the witness box, however parts of his account were corroborated by intercepted phone calls.
In one key phone call, Witness B spoke to Lazar on August 22, 2012 while using a fake accent and claiming to be the fictitious “Detective Sergeant Superintendent McGillicuddy”.
“McGillicuddy” said if Detective Roberts called one more time, Lazar should contact Constantinidis who would talk to “my associate” – presumably Witness B – so the matter could be dealt with “swiftly and quietly and I promise you this much, you’ll never hear from him again”.
Judge Traill said it was “curious” and “risky” for Witness B to pretend to be a senior police officer to ease Lazar’s concerns, because there was no sign Detective Roberts was going to stop investigating.
Coincidentally, the gold bar investigation was suspended because another officer spoke to Detective Roberts and told him his inquiries were interfering with another ongoing investigation. A police officer gave evidence that this had “nothing to do with Witness B”.
Judge Traill found Lazar and Constantinidis acted in a joint criminal enterprise by asking Witness B to contact high-ranking police to “put improper pressure” on the detective, or if that did not work, to “recruit others to physically harm” him.
“There was an intention by each accused to pervert the course of justice. I find the offence proved,” Judge Traill said.
Lazar did not speak as he left court with his lawyer Bryan Wrench, hastily crossing the road to avoid the news cameras pursuing him.
Constantinidis was not present for the guilty verdict because he is currently in hospital.
The matter will return to court on March 13.
Georgina Mitchell is a court reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.