No one in the Australian underworld was shocked when ‘Instagangster’ Pasquale Barbaro was gunned down in a quiet Sydney street five years ago – least of all the preening man himself.
The flashy drug dealer had long known he was a target for execution and there were seemingly more dangerous criminals who wanted him dead than alive.
It is perhaps only surprising Barbaro lasted as long as he did, after managing to get everyone from Middle Eastern crime gangs to the Calabrian mafia offside.
On top of that, Barbaro was rumoured to have been helping detectives investigating a recent spate of gangland murders and cooperating with the New South Wales Crime Commission.
The last years of Barbaro’s short, trouble-filled life are the subject of the Seven Network’s two-part drama series Australian Gangster which aired last Monday and Tuesday nights.
No one in the Australian underworld was shocked when ‘Instagangster’ Pasquale Barbaro was gunned down in a quiet Sydney street five years ago – least of all the preening man himself
Pasquale Barbaro was married with two children but had girlfriend Chantel Baptista (pictured) on the side. Ms Baptista was a Portuguese dancer who told Daily Mail Australia she was distressed after his murder. ‘I am grieving… I’m really sad for his family too,’ Ms Baptista said
The flashy drug dealer had long known he was a target for execution and there were seemingly more dangerous criminals who wanted him dead than alive. His body is pictured on a street at Earlwood in Sydney’s inner south-west after he was gunned down on November 14, 2016
The first of two 90-minute episodes drew 510,000 viewers nationally and 486,000 for the second – each winning its timeslot.
After favourable comparisons with Nine’s Underbelly franchise and strong word-of-mouth recommendations it will have a new life on the catch-up service 7Plus.
Like Underbelly, the generic title of Australian Gangster leaves open the possibility for more installments focusing on other criminals from other states to come.
The show features several of the most notorious crooks in Sydney over the past decade and a string of bloody crimes including brazen public shootings – some of them completely mindless.
‘This story is inspired by actual events,’ says an explanatory note at the start. ‘Some characters and incidents have been fictionalised for dramatic purposes.’
Australian Gangster tracks the breakdown of the Brothers 4 Life gang as senior members Farhad ‘The Afghan’ Qaumi, his brother Mumtaz and Mohammed ‘Little Crazy’ Hamzy run out of control.
Farhad Qaumi knee caps an associate for no reason and organises the 2013 contract killing of standover man Joe Antoun, who is gunned down in front of his wife and two daughters.
A year earlier Mohammed Hamzy shoots dead his mate Yehya Amood in a car while aiming at another associate who had called his wife a gold digger and a s***.
The last years of Barbaro’s short, trouble-filled life are the subject of the Seven Network’s two-part drama series Australian Gangster which aired last Monday and Tuesday nights
Australian Gangster features the breakdown of the Brothers 4 Life gang as senior members Farhad ‘The Afghan’ Qaumi (pictured), his brother Mumtaz and Mohammed ‘Little Crazy’ Hamzy run out of control
But at the centre of Australian Gangster is father-of-two Pasquale Timothy Barbaro, a cocaine-addled playboy and aspiring property developer who just wants to make the big time.
Barbaro was vain and violent – he is shown both plucking hairs from his nose before a night on the town, and spitting in the face of his trembling wife.
Retired detective superintendent Deb Wallace, who worked on the Qaumis and Hamzys when she was commander of the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, worried about television glamorising the gangster life.
‘I watched it with a punter’s interest,’ she said of Australian Gangster. ‘If you looked at it as pure entertainment, it was entertainment. If you were looking at it as a documentary, no it wasn’t.
‘If anything comes out of it, it’s that’s the life of a gangster – it’s all good when it’s going right. That fast life, cocaine, fast cars, fast women, the high life, the flashiness.
‘They make it out like it’s all good while the money’s coming in but you’ve always got to pay the piper in the end. There’s always a cost.’
Director Gregor Jordan has described Barbaro as a compelling character in the manner of Tony Soprano but he is dumber, less charismatic and much less likeable.
Barbaro was very much a 21st century gangster, more interested in posting pictures of himself on Instagram than worrying about police surveillance cameras and getting caught.
The first episodes begins with Barbaro being released from jail and having sex with his wife Melinda in the back of a BMW in the prison carpark. His widow is pictured
Barbaro buys an apartment at Darling Point overlooking the harbour but his wife doesn’t want to move from Leichhardt in the inner-west. ‘What about my coffee shop? My waxing place? My gym?’ she asks. Actors Alexander Bertrand and Louisa Mignone are pictured
He drove a black Lamborghini (white in the program), worked out daily in gyms, wore chunky watches and dressed in hideously garish shirts with designer sneakers.
Among his many tattoos were ‘MALAVITA’ – Italian for ‘he evil life’ – around his neck, ‘LOST ANGELS’ across his back and ‘THE WORLD IS MINE’ on his buttock.
Barbaro is played by Alexander Bertrand – last seen as bouncer Les Norton in the ABC crime-comedy series of the same name – and his performance is a stand out.
Bertrand underwent a physical transformation, eating up to eight meals a day while he trained, having Barbaro’s tattoos replicated in makeup and getting his head shaved to play the part.
‘Everything’s put up as a front and then suddenly… you start peeling back who the guy really was,’ Bertrand says.
‘He was a supposed mafia don who at the end of the day was just a really big kid who wanted to prove everybody wrong and that ultimately led to his demise.’
Australian Gangster was commissioned in 2016, shortly after Barbaro was shot dead, and filmed in 2018 but faced years of legal hurdles as various characters were before courts.
Barbaro was a 21st century gangster, more interested in posting pictures of himself on Instagram than worrying about police surveillance cameras and getting caught
Producer John Edwards (Love My Way, Offspring, The Secret Life of Us) and his son Dan Edwards of Roadshow Rough Diamond are proud of the project.
The Edwards team had originally pitched a show about another Pasquale Barbaro who had been jailed for the 2008 importation of drugs worth $440million inside Italian tomato tins in what was then the world’s biggest ecstasy bust.
Seven passed on the senior Barbaro’s story but took on his younger namesake and relative’s tale, which came with a dash of sex and a more complex plot.
Jordan (Two Hands, Ned Kelly, Buffalo Soldiers) was brought on to develop a script with contributions from former police and crime reporters.
‘One of the things that really made the story suddenly interesting was the dichotomy of the fact that this guy was this quite amoral gangster,’ Jordan says.
Acquaintances said Chantel Baptista (above) was reluctant to speak publicly after her boyfriend’s murder. ‘This is not meant to be a circus,’ she said at the time
After Barbaro’s death friends of his girlfriend Chantel Baptista (above) described her as ‘gorgeous’. Pictures showed her to be a social butterfly who was regularly showered in compliments for her bikini photographs
‘He was a knucklehead, he was vain, he was narcissistic, but at the same time he was also a loving father and husband and really did genuinely, we think anyway, love his family.’
The first episodes begins with Barbaro being released from jail and having sex with his wife Melinda in the back of a BMW in the prison carpark.
It then flashes back to a scene in which Barbaro childishly taunts Brothers 4 Life gang members including ‘Little Crazy’ Hamzy in the prison yard.
‘My brothers for life, trouble and strife,’ he chants. ‘How’s it hanging? Who ya banging? I’m banging ya sister, I’m banging your mother, I’m banging your wife. My brothers for life.’
Barbaro and Hamzy get into a fistfight, which Hamzy wins, before Barbaro uses a colourful phrase to describe how he is going to have sex with Hamzy’s wife when he gets out.
Back with his family, Barbaro reads the Old Testament to his children at night.
‘He was a knucklehead, he was vain, he was narcissistic, but at the same time he was also a loving father and husband and really did genuinely, we think anyway, love his family,’ said writer-director Gregor Jordan
In short time he is back in business, dropping off drugs and collecting cash. He visits construction industry friend Elias ‘Les’ Elias – another real character – who advises Barbaro property development is more profitable than drugs.
‘Who do you thinks richer?’ Elias asks. ‘Drug dealers or property developers? Think about it.’
Barbaro: ‘I’m not thinking small time any more. I’m not gonna be some s*** kicker. I’m gonna be a boss.’
‘Listen to me brother, You want to be something, you want to be someone in this world, you want something, you got to go out there and you’ve got to take it.’
Barbaro later says while he is on the way up, the old Griffith mafia to which his family belongs are ‘proper dinosaurs’ and ‘just a bunch of w***kers’.
‘I got a Lambo, I got a place with the best view in the whole city, I got a hot wife, I’m going places, you know what I mean?’
Brothers 4 Life Bankstown chapter boss Mohammed ‘Little Crazy’ Hamzy (pictured) is features in a subplot of Australian Gangster as his gang implodes. Hamzy was sentenced in October 2016 to at least eight and a half years for the manslaughter of his friend Yehya Amood.
Australian Gangster features a scene in which Barbaro childishly taunts Brothers 4 Life gang leader Mohammed ‘Little Crazy’ Hamzy in a prison yard (above). Barbaro says he is going to have sex with Hamzy’s wife when he gets out of jail.
Barbaro buys an apartment at Darling Point overlooking the harbour but his wife doesn’t want to move from Leichhardt in the inner-west. ‘What about my coffee shop? My waxing place? My gym?’ she asks.
Meanwhile, Little Crazy is back on the streets and vowing to kill Barbaro over the insult about his wife unless he comes up with $300,000.
At his local gym Barbaro meets a Croatian dancer who will become his girlfriend – ‘Your face is almost as pretty as Miranda Kerr’s; your body’s probably hotter.’ (The real Barbaro he had a Portuguese dancer girlfriend called Chantel Baptista).
To the dancer he reveals another of his guiding principles: ‘I think the most important thing in life is looking good. Because if you look like s*** you may as well be dead.’
While Barbaro does not seem concerned about Little Crazy, his associates say he should be, calling him a psychopath. Elias suggests Farhad Qaumi could help.
Elias also reckons Qaumi might be interested in a multi-million dollar scheme to buy construction cranes with him and Barbaro to launder his ill-gotten cash.
Family life keeps encroaching on Barbaro’s plans. When his daughter is expelled from preschool for biting another girl, Barbaro follows the supposed child victim’s parents to their home and threatens them both.
Barbaro (right) is shown in police surveillance footage with construction boss Elias ‘Les’ Elias who suggests to the gangster there is more money in property development than drugs
Whether this actually happened or not is unclear but the matter is resolved without Barbaro breaking anyone’s legs.
Little Crazy survives an assassination attempt in which his cousin Mahmoud Hamzy is killed, shortly after Barbaro’s first meeting with Qaumi.
Barbaro drives to the kebab shop in western Sydney where the daggily-dressed Qaumis do business, bringing bags of Armani, Versace and Diesel clothes.
‘Not the Emporio neither, that’s the proper Armani s***,’ he says to Farhad.
As the brothers try on their new threads Barbaro says the look will be complete if Farhad shaves off his ‘terrorist beard’.
‘You can’t be looking like that,’ he says. ‘Not with everything we’re doing.’ Farhad’s brother agrees: ‘It does attract attention, bro. Been meaning to say something for a while.’
While Barbaro and the Qaumi brothers consider the plan to buy construction cranes, Barbaro’s wife becomes suspicious of his ‘business meetings’.
Brothers 4 Life: A violent timeline
Farhad Qaumi (left) was sentenced to 60 years’ prison with a non-parole term of 43 years for what a judge called ‘outlandish and lawless violence’. Mumtaz Qaumi (right) got 50 years with a 35-year minimum term for murder, conspiracy to murder and soliciting murder
2007: Police first learn of the Brothers 4 Life’s existence from notes found in the Lithgow jail cell of gang leader and killer Bassam Hamzy.
2012: Feuding starts between the Bankstown (Lebanese) chapter, led by Mohammed ‘Little Crazy’ Hamzy, and the Blacktown (Afghan) chapter controlled by Farhad Qaumi and his brother Mumtaz.
October 2012: Mohammed Hamzy, cousin of Bassam Hamzy, shoots dead fellow B4L member Yehya Abood and wounds another man.
February 2013: Police arrest five mostly junior members. A member knee-capped over a drug debt becomes police informant known as Witness A. His information leads to further arrests.
October 2013: Bassam Hamzy’s cousin Mahmoud Hamzy is shot dead at Revesby Heights. Another B4L member, Omar Ajaj, is wounded. Attack target Mohammed Hamzy escapes.
November 2013: Ten key gang members including Mohammed Hamzy are arrested.
January 2014: Blacktown leader Farhad Qaumi is shot in the shoulder on New Year’s Day while on a yacht berthing at Rose Bay marina.
October 2016: Mohammed ‘Little Crazy’ Hamzy sentenced to at least eight and a half years’ jail for the manslaughter of Yehya Amood.
June 2017: Farhad and Mumtaz Quami sentenced over the contract killing of standover man Joe Antoun in 2013. Farhad sentenced over the killing of Mahmoud Hamzy. Farhad is jailed for 60 years and Mumtaz for 50.
One night she tells Barbaro she hopes he has organised a babysitter because she is off to the movies. ‘I’m sick of organising everything around here so you can go out rooting skanks,’ she tells him.
As he heads out another night she challenges why he is wearing perfume. ‘It’s not perfume, it’s men’s fragrance,’ he says, before going to dinner with his girlfriend.
When the girlfriend asks Barbaro what he does for a living he says he’s a property developer. She replies: ‘It’s going to sound really stupid but I thought maybe you were like a gangster or something.’
Police are in no doubt what Barbaro is and pressure him to provide information about other criminals with threats he will go back to jail if he doesn’t cooperate.
As the crane plan progresses Elias informs his partners – they need $8.5million for it to go head – he is owed money by standover man Joe Antoun, who at a meeting calls Barbaro a clown.
Farhad Qaumi tells Barbaro he has to kill Antoun due to the insult and Barbaro says he’ll do it for $300,000.
At his first attempt Antoun’s children are at home and Barbaro, whose own kids have been keeping him up late, falls asleep in his car.
Actor Alexander Bertrand (above) underwent a physical transformation, eating up to eight meals a day while he trained, having Barbaro’s tattoos replicated in makeup and getting his head shaved to play the part
Barbaro tells a confused Qaumi he couldn’t kill Antoun because of ‘the code’. ‘Where I’m from it’s not cool to do something like that in front of kids,’ he says. ‘But, you blokes are different, eh.’
Qaumi says he’ll do the job for $200,000 and sub-contracts a hitman who kills Antoun at his Strathfield home in while Qaumi, Barbaro and Elias are at a Chinatown karaoke joint.
‘It’s done,’ Qaumi says to Barbaro. Outside in the street as news of the shooting flashes on a TV screen, he adds: ‘No one’s gonna f*** with us now.’
Two weeks later on New Year’s Even Barbaro hosts a party on a yacht for Qaumi, who is upset when promised guest Miranda Kerr doesn’t turn up.
Cruising around Sydney Harbour snorting coke with women in bikinis, Barbaro uploads selfies to social media which are seen by his wife as she hosts a party for family and friends at their Darling Point apartment.
The next night, still on the harbour, Qaumi is wounded in the shoulder when shots are fired at the boat from Rose Bay marina. When Barbaro gets home and throws up in the sink his wife says, ‘Bravo d***head, bravo.’
Standover man Joe Antoun was shot dead in front of his wife Teagan (both pictured) at the front door of their home at Strathfield on December 16, 2013. Farhad and Mumtaz were convicted of organising his murder, which a judge suspected had also involved Barbaro
From here, life unravels for Barbaro. The Antoun hitman goes missing, Qaumi wants revenge for being shot, and he’s still asking why Miranda Kerr was not on the boat.
Barbaro, who is using more and more cocaine, struggles to come up with his $2.2million for the cranes until he decides to rip off a gang of Pacific Islander drug dealers.
He is also due to face trial on drug manufacturing charges in February 2017.
As police close in on Antoun’s killers the Qaumis are arrested and blame Barbaro. Elias disappears to the Philippines and Barbaro’s marriage falls apart.
‘You think you’re such a big man but you’re a joke,’ his wife says. ‘All your friends laugh at you behind your back, all your own family hates you and you’re a s***house father.’
A masked gunman fires shots at Barbaro near his home in November 2015 and he starts wearing a bullet-proof vest. Desperate for guidance he visits his mafia-connected father.
‘Who have you p****ed off so much they want ya dead?’ Giuseppe ‘Joe’ Barbaro asks. ‘Who’s got the money and hates you that much?’
After a masked gunman fires shots at Barbaro near his home in November 2015 he starts wearing a bullet-proof vest. Desperate for guidance he visits his mafia-connected father, Giuseppe ‘Joe’ Barbaro (above)
His son replies: ‘I reckon I can narrow it down to maybe like eight different people. Or nine.’
Giuseppe sums up his son’s predicament. ‘Let me get this straight, all your friends are either in jail, dead or on the run because of you,’ he says.
‘Every crim in Sydney wants you dead. Someone’s paid good money to have you knocked. When your court case comes up you’re facing a long stretch, your wife hates ya and you can’t see your kids. Am I missing anything here?’
Barbaro tries to make peace with his wife and shows her a coffin he has picked for himself from a catalogue.
‘Babe, I done a lot of things I regret in my life, a lot of bad s***, but marrying you, having kids with you, it’s the best thing I ever did.’
In desperation Barbaro seeks the help of property George Alex over ‘certain problems with certain blokes’ and the men meet at Alex’s home at Earlwood.
After a meal of moussaka Alex says he will do what he can for Barbaro but cannot promise anything. They part and Barbaro heads for his car.
As Barbaro smiles in his Mercedes the first of seven shots rings out and he runs from the vehicle. ‘Open the f***king door,’ he calls out.
Barbaro was shot dead outside the home of construction boss George Alex on November 14, 2016. Police are pictured searching Larkhall Avenue at Earlwood after the killing. There is no suggestion Alex was involved in any way in Barbaro’s death
But nothing can save Barbaro now. He collapses and dies by the side of the road on November 14, 2016 aged was 35.
Fewer than 30 mourners attended his funeral at Tripodi Funeral Services chapel in Melbourne’s North Coburg, three weeks after an even smaller service at A O’Hare Funeral Home in Leichhardt.
Barbaro’s widow quoted one of his favourite sayings at the Melbourne funeral: ‘Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.’
‘Those were his words,’ she said. ‘Farewell, Pasquale, you can now rest in peace.’
In June the next year Farhad Qaumi was sentenced to 60 years’ prison with a non-parole term of 43 years for what a judge called ‘outlandish and lawless violence’ including organising Joe Antoun’s murder.
Mumtaz Qaumi got 50 years with a 35-year minimum term for murder, conspiracy to murder and soliciting murder.
Mohammed ‘Little Crazy’ Hamzy had been sentenced in October 2016 to at least eight and a half years for the manslaughter of Yehya Amood.
Les Elias has refused to return from The Philippines. There is no suggestion George Alex had any knowledge of or involvement in Barbaro’s murder.
Barbaro’s widow launched a last-minute bid to have Australian Gangster pulled, complaining it was a ‘trashy’ portrayal of their family and would traumatise her children.
Mrs Barbaro wrote in a letter to Seven: ‘I understand Pasquale is deceased but my children and me are still alive.’
‘Our lives have been made a joke of by insensitive people… your trashy production makes it even more of a slap in the face to us. We are the victims of an horrendous crime.’
Mrs Barbaro was also upset her late husband had been depicted as a police informant, a line she said was pushed by ‘bubblegum gangster’ rivals.
‘As much as I’d like to stop my children from seeing this appalling show they will be sent it by friends as they are all studying from home and I’m unable to remove their laptops.’
Seven responded that Australian Gangster dealt with confronting crimes and ‘naturally feelings will be hurt’.
‘All the producers can do is depict events on public record in a fair way, although some parts are fictitious,’ a spokeswoman said.
‘We’ve relied on court transcripts and public records and hope we have presented a realistic picture of events that portrays the victim sympathetically. It’s a great show, enjoy it.’
Life and crimes of Pasquale Barbaro
February 6, 1981: Born Pasquale Timothy Barbaro to Cheryl Gilroy and Giuseppe ‘Joe’ Barbaro, member of a Calabrian crime family with links to Griffith and Melbourne.
1983: Gilroy takes Pasquale to Brisbane to remove him from the influence of his father’s family. Pasquale does not see his father again until he is nine.
1990: Pasquale’s grandfather Pasquale ‘Peter’ Barbaro, 58, is murdered in gangland hit in Brisbane after turning police informant.
1997: First court appearances aged 16 for burglary, harassment, armed robbery, possessing heroin and threatening to kill.
October 2002: Arrested by joint AFP NSW Police operation and later jailed for nine years with minimum six years for involvement in a methylamphatime ring with father.
2003: Cousin Pasquale ‘Little Pat’ Barbaro, 40, shot dead in van next to gangland figure Jason Moran in Melbourne.
October 2006: While still in custody, sentenced to five years’ jail in the ACT for possessing a prohibited weapon, armed robbery, theft and burglary over a 2001 armed robber.
August 2008: Uncle Pasquale ‘Pat’ Barbaro, 46 arrested after the world’s biggest ecstasy bust in Melbourne.
2008: Released from jail after serving sentence for drug matters.
2010: Convicted of fraud offences and put on a good behaviour bond.
June 2012: Charged in relation to the production of methylamphetamine at properties near Goulburn and Cobbitty.
May 2013: Released on $350,000 bail. Begins association with Brothers 4 Life members including Farhad Qaumi.
December 16, 2013: Standover man Joe Antoun shot dead at Strathfield. Qaumi later convicted of organising the murder and a judge says he suspects Barbaro behind the hit.
December 31, 2013: Hosts party on Sydney Harbour for leading underworld figures including Quami.
November 9, 2015: Survives a targeted attack in which six shots were fired at him near his home at Leichhardt. One suspect is Hamad Assaad.
October 25, 2016: Hamad Assaad, 29, shot dead at his Georges Hall home. Assaad was also a suspect in the murder of Walid ‘Wally’ Ahmad, 40, at Bankstown on April 29, 2016.
November 14, 2016: Shot dead outside the Earlwood home of construction boss George Alex
February 2017: Had been due to face trial with three others over the manufacture of 2kg of methylamphetamine.