‘He’s lost a lot of the swagger’: Mokbel back in hospital as heart issues persist

When Tony Mokbel was handed a 30-year prison sentence in 2012 for his role as mastermind of an elaborate drug syndicate, he had already suffered his first heart attack.

His lawyers had submitted, unsuccessfully, that he should have received a reduced sentence after a doctor’s assessment found his life expectancy could be 24 more years or less, while his late father had died in his 50s from cardiac arrest.

Jailed drug trafficker Tony Mokbel was seen leaving hospital on Friday after being taken from Barwon Prison the night before.Credit:Nine News

Justice Simon Whelan said he took Mokbel’s medical condition and history into account before sentencing him to a minimum of 22 years behind bars.

However, the underworld kingpin was given a glimmer of hope in 2019, when the Court of Appeal ordered for him to face a retrial on drug-trafficking charges that were quashed because of the Lawyer X scandal.

But his ailing health now threatens any prospect of a life beyond a prison cell.

On Thursday evening, Mokbel was rushed to hospital after a triple-zero call from Barwon Prison instructed paramedics he was experiencing heart issues again.

Tony Mokbel – wearing a wig – at the time of his arrest in Greece in 2007.

The 57-year-old, who was famously arrested in Greece in 2007 after fleeing while on trial, had suffered two heart attacks in March and April last year and then underwent stent surgery.

Mokbel also went into cardiac arrest in 2019 when two inmates bashed and stabbed him with a makeshift knife.

He spent 24 days in a coma after the assault, and continues to suffer from cognitive issues affecting his memory, planning, organisation and reasoning skills, according to barrister Julie Condon, KC.

A lawyer who previously acted for Mokbel but asked not to be identified because they did not have instructions to speak on his behalf, said his physical and mental condition had deteriorated rapidly over the past few years.

Nicola Gobbo and Tony Mokbel outside a court in 2004.Credit:Nine News

“He’s had issues with his heart for a long time, but he’s lost a lot of the swagger he used to have,” the lawyer told The Age.

“His health is terrible, which is hardly surprising given what’s happened to him.

“Tony is tough, and he’s been relatively lucky so far in terms of his heart, but who knows how long that will last.”

Condon, appearing for Mokbel at a resentencing hearing in the Court of Appeal last month, said her high-profile client’s recovery had been hampered by his long stint in protective custody.

She said the isolation had also exacted a toll on Mokbel’s mental health, as she requested he be moved to another prison where he could assimilate with other inmates.

“He’s doing time in harsh conditions. His conditions in custody have impeded the rehabilitative process,” she said.

“Mr Mokbel spends in the order of 20 hours per day alone in his cell most days. He has no access to work, education or rehabilitation programs.”

Condon said Mokbel was entitled to be given some certainty on how long he would remain behind bars.

“He’s simply served a prison sentence referable to a conviction that is no longer valid,” she said.

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