Crime figures put $500k bounty on missing rocket launchers
SYDNEY'S underworld has put a $500,000 bounty on each missing rocket launcher stolen from the Australian Army almost 20 years ago.
Major organised crime figures believe one of the rocket launchers could be traded for years off any criminal sentence given if they are caught.
"It's not uncommon for crooks especially those with large sums of money to buy and hide weapons and then trade them for reduced sentences,'' said a senior NSW Police officer.
NSW Police have only ever recovered one of the handheld lethal weapons after a corrupt army officer, Shane Della-Vedova stole 10 of them between 2001 and 2003 and sold at least five of them to Sydney's Middle Eastern crime families.
Only one has ever been recovered, by retired assistant commissioner Ken McKay in 2006 after a double murderer wanted full immunity for getting one of the deadly weapons off the street.
In the end a deal was done and the killer's mother was let off a $25,000 debt to the NSW Crime Commission. McKay believes the outstanding rocket launchers have disappeared long ago.
"You would have expected them to turn up in some capacity after all this time'' he said.
But the underworld believes they are still out there somewhere probably buried on a rural property being kept for a the day they are needed to be traded.
Two sources connected to the underworld said it's believed a rocket launcher could be worth five years off a sentence but former NSW Detective and lecturer in Policing Studies at Western Sydney University Michael Kennedy said he doubts that.
"Criminal have been doing deals for years where they try and trade up. That means they will give information on another criminal higher up the chain for a reduced sentence but I doubt the authorities would give five years off for a rocket launcher which would be nearly 15 years old by now … that's if they are still around,'' he said.
It's not uncommon for police to provide "letters of comfort'' to the courts supporting reduced sentences to criminals who have helped police. The information is kept confidential and only known to the police and the judge.
"It's not ideal and many police are reluctant to deal with criminals especially those who want to trade guns for years off their sentences,'' a senior NSW Police officer said.
""They just use drug money to buy the weapons keep them for the day they get arrested to trade,'' he said.
As distasteful as it is police often have to weigh up the decision of getting dangerous weapons off the street.
A number of lawyers have told The Daily Telegraph that the "letters of comfort"' are used a lot more than the public realise.
"I've been involved in several deals where my client has given information about weapons, including explosives which has resulted in them getting a number of years knocked off what they would have expected to get," one lawyer said.