Secret relations between senior Australian politicians and Calabrian Mafia members have been unveiled in a joint investigation by the Four Corners and Fairfax newspapers.
As a result of the year-long investigation, it has been revealed that the Calabrian Mafia, also known as the 'Ndrangheta, have used loopholes in the political donation system to lobby the local, state and federal government, across a wide political spectrum.
A series of contacts between members of the mafia organisation and senior politicians has been publicised by the investigation.
The Calabrian Mafia is one of the most powerful criminal organisation with respect to international drug trafficking, and it exerts global influence from Italy.
The mafia group runs both legitimate and non-legitimate businesses in Australia using threats and violence.
The Fairfax Media/Four Corners investigation also indicated that some activities of the mafia group are connected to the Italy-based crime group the Honoured Society, which also operates legitimate and illegitimate businesses in Australia.
According to the investigation, former Prime minister John Howard and members of the Liberal Party met with a man who is believed to be mafia boss during several fundraising events.
Additionally, while former Liberal minister Amanda Vanston was ambassador to the Australian embassy in Rome the son of another mafia boss allegedly gained work experience in the embassy.
Following the launch of the investigation all eyes turned to Ms Vanstone who has retired from politics. It is claimed that when she was migration minister in the Howard government she allegedly provided a visa to a mafia boss in 2005 who has been imprisoned for drug trafficking and murdering.
According to an AFP report published in 2009, the Australian political donations system has "significant" failings.
"As it stands, political parties and candidates can receive significant support and financial contributions through avenues not covered by the statutory disclosure regime," the AFP report said.
In other words, loopholes in the current system make it difficult to identify any bribery in the form of political donations.
Australia’s ABC television will broadcast the findings and details of the ongoing media investigation into the alleged mafia links on Monday.