Monday, March 8, 2010

Fear and loathing in Prince Harry's favourite drinking haunt

Richard Buttrose
With the leaked news that the NSW police have set up the covert Strike Force Harbour to investigate clients of the millionaire drug dealer Richard Buttrose, trembling has been felt afar and phones are running hot throughout Sydney's well heeled eastern suburbs as news that his 'little black book' in the form of a mobile phone containing client's phone numbers is being examined.

Buttrose, the nephew of TV and publishing identity Ita Buttrose was arrested in a sting operation when he sold cocaine to an undercover officer in a bowling club cark park near the Lord Dudley Hotel in ritzy Woollahra in 2009. When his car was pulled over by police shortly after he was found in possession of bags of cocaine. Matters took a turn for the worse when detectives raided a Paddington apartment rented by Buttrose and found another 6 grams of the drug and $1.3M in cash hidden beneath floorboards.

It was common knowledge that Buttrose was "the man" who offered a steady supply of cocaine at all hours.

The Lord Dudley was Richard's local boozer and a favourite of society swells and rich youngsters and a regular drinking spot of Prince Harry and his royal cousins Peter and Zara Phillips who stay at the Vaucluse house of James Erskine, a friend of Princess Anne and a business partner of British theatre mogul Sir Cameron Mackintosh.

Buttrose had been under investigation since 2008 but now detectives are probing his customer's identities that rumours say include film stars, musicians, a leading lawyer and a prominent member of Parliament although as owner of several popular restaurants there could be a perfectly innocent reason for anyone's phone number to be in Buttrose's phone.

Most who heard of Buttrose's activities thought it was just a matter of time before he was busted. He was encroaching on turf usually dominated by Middle Eastern and biker gangs and a newly emerging Russian mafia that has begun to proliferate in QLD's Surfer's Paradise. One tale tells of Buttrose being flown into Surfers by private jet to supply a group of Russian "entrepreneurs" eyeing the place as a potential investment town. Tales are flying thick and fast and it's difficult to tell what is fact and fantasy. We may never know the real tale because as Butttrose has pleaded guilty, there won't be a lengthy trial.

Along with Buttrose, 32 year old Nathan Lea, an heir to the Darrel Lea chocolate empire was also arrested and pleaded guilty to a low level possession charge, receiving a six month suspended sentence.

Buttrose has been singing like a canary in a bid to lessen what could be a long jail sentence. The National Crime Commission has confiscated $2.2M in assets from him. His lawyer Martin Luitingh told the court last Friday that his client's life was in danger both in jail and when he finally emerges and this should be taken into account when he is sentenced. The judge seems to buying none of this and has pointed to the amount of money Buttrose had made from his crimes.
Richard's father was the well liked investment advisor and banker Will Buttrose who appeared regularly on TV and radio giving money advice. He died of cancer in 2005. His aunt Ita was a close friend of Kerry Packer and editor of both the Sunday Telegraph newspaper and Australia's largest selling magazine the Women's Weekly before she retired to concentrate on raising funds for AID's research. An uncle was the public relations manager for the NSW police.

None of the Buttrose family are talking to the media but sister Lizzie, the close friend  of the late billionaire Dick Pratt's mistress Shari-Lea Hitchcock is said to be distraught at her brother's plight as she is particularly close to him. Richard Buttrose pleaded guilty to 2 supply charges and will be sentenced later this month.

Meanwhile, the drug trade continues unabated as the vacuum is filled almost overnight.