Victorian police on Monday formally announced a $1 million reward for information leading to an arrest in the investigation of the killing of former trainer and bloodstock buyer Les Samba.
Samba, 60, was shot dead in an execution style killing in the Melbourne suburb of Middle Park on February 27th, 2011, and to-date no one has been charged with the killing.
Police say that Samba left the Crown Metropol Hotel at approximately 9.00pm and he was murdered at approximately 9.35pm in Beaconsfield Parade.
“At this stage we have approximately five hours of Mr Samba’s movements that we are still trying to identify what he did, so we are encouraging any person from the public to come forward and give us information on his movements on that day,” said a Victorian Police spokesman at a media conference on Monday.
“In relation to the $1 million dollar reward, we believe it is the right amount of money at the right time in this investigation to allow a person to come forward to give us that missing piece of the puzzle that will help us complete that investigation,” he said.
Police also confirmed that the murder investigation into Samba’s death had widened into an allegation of race fixing into a race won by Smoking Aces at Cranbourne on April 27th, 2011.
Smoking Aces, ridden by Samba’s former son-in-law Danny Nikolic, won the Rst62 over 1200m by 1 1/2L in the now six-year-old gelding’s first race in over seven months. There has been no suggestion by any of the parties in the investigation that Nikolic is involved with Samba’s murder.
The race fixing allegation is being investigated by the Victorian Purana organised crime taskforce.
“It is being done as part of the broader investigation into the murder of Les Samba. There is an investigation into an allegation that this race was fixed in Cranbourne last year involving a horse with the name of Smoking Aces,” said Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton.
The spokesman said that he was unable to disclose where the information came from in relation to the race fixing allegation.
“At this stage we are investigating that particular allegation because of its links to the broader investigation that we are conducting in the taskforce, certainly we are liaising with Racing Victoria, particularly with their investigators in Integrity Services of Racing Victoria,” he said.
“They have obviously got broader responsibility in the industry that they are looking at in relation to the integrity of the sport, so they are looking at the broader aspects at the moment, and at this stage we are focused on this specific allegation.
“There is nothing really imminent at this stage and it is still the subject of investigation so I would not be expecting an announcement in any immediate sense,” he said regarding the possibility of arrests.
The spokesman said that he was not aware of any inter-state investigations and further race fixing inquires in relation to the murder investigation.
“It is important to remember that in the racing industry for example there are thousands of races each year and this is an allegation in relation to one race that is being looked at here,” he said.
“So whilst it is a significant issue, and we need to make sure that the integrity of racing is maintained, and certainly Victorian Police have a commitment as well as Racing Victoria to try and ensure that happens, it is just one race in a big huge industry.
“So I think we have to keep that into a perspective as well,” he said.
The taskforce have shared information with Racing Victoria Integrity Services over the past two months.
The ABC’s Four Corners programme on ABC1 at 8.30pm AEST on Monday night is expected to cover allegations of contact between convicted drug trafficker Tony Mokbel and racing identities.
Les Samba (left in coat) and racing partner Ron Medich, picture Sportpix.com.au
Earlier report Monday:The unsolved killing of former trainer and bloodstock buyer Les Samba in Melbourne in February 2011 has Victorian police investigating an alleged race fixing last year involving a horse called Smoking Aces reports smh.com.au on Monday.
The report says because of the unsolved investigation into the clinical killing of Samba in Middle Park, when the noted bloodstock buyer was in Melbourne for the state’s major yearling sale, police have uncovered the alleged race fixing.
Detective Superintendent Gerard Ryan confirmed police were investigating race fixing in Victoria last year involving a horse called Smoking Aces said the report.
The smh.com.au report also said that police will announce a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Samba's killers.
''Certainly, I believe that if we we're able to solve the race fixing and solve the issues that are emerging, we will certainly solve the murder,'' Superintendent Ryan told the smh.com.au.
Racing figures suspected of involvement in the investigation into the Smoking Aces affair are believed to have arranged for two jockeys to ride in a way that would reduce the favourite's chances of winning and boost Smoking Aces' chances of success.
Victoria Police have moved the Samba inquiry to the Purana organised crime taskforce.
Smoking Aces is a six-year-old gelding who has won four races from 21 starts racing mainly on the Victorian country and provincial circuit.
Click here for Smoking Aces’ race record.