I was told once of a then illegal gay venue in Sydney — I am speaking of the 1960s and 1970s — by someone who worked there that he had one night been introduced to the club’s “silent partner”, the then Premier of NSW. Somewhere in this mix was always the name Abe Saffron. Now Saffron’s son has written Abe’s biography.
THE disgraced former Liberal premier Bob Askin was not only on the payroll of the late crime boss Abe Saffron, but was the recipient of payments via horse races that were fixed as “a courtesy to premier Askin”.
Askin and a police commissioner were among those who received thousands of dollars a week from Saffron, the crime figure’s son has confirmed in a book on his father, to be released soon…
Despite Saffron’s lifelong denial of involvement in criminal activity, in Gentle Satan Saffron’s only son, Alan, 59, says his father controlled the vice trade, including illegal gambling and prostitution, in every state except Tasmania and the Northern Territory, and bribed a host of politicians and policemen to ensure he was protected.
At one stage, the American “Mob” tried to persuade Saffron to operate a casino in Las Vegas on its behalf, but his father declined, he said.
Mr Saffron details his father’s “excellent business relationship and long-standing friendship” with Askin and the police commissioner of the day, Norm Allan, who died in 1977. Questions were asked about the size of Askin’s estate, almost $2 million, when he died in 1981. Askin was knighted in 1972, while he was premier…
In his early years as premier, Askin would meet Saffron at restaurants at arranged times and speak to him on the phone regularly. But as Saffron came to the attention of law enforcement agencies, intermediaries were used, Mr Saffron says in the book.
He says in the later years of Askin’s premiership, his father became the “bagman” for Sydney’s liquor and prostitution rackets, and most of the illegal gambling. “In return, my father was completely protected.”
During the late 1960s, when his illegal casinos were flourishing, Saffron was paying the premier and the police commissioner $5000 to $10,000 a week each…
Mr Saffron said he was “extremely disappointed that there were notable absences at his father’s funeral, including several prominent former politicians and police who had been the recipient of his father’s generosity. “I wish I could tell you who they are,” he said, but lawyers for his publisher, Penguin, had asked him to remove a number of names from the book.
One person who did attend Saffron’s funeral in 2006 was the controversial West Australian businessman Warren Anderson. Mr Saffron said Mr Anderson had been a wonderful friend to his father and had helped him with “real estate ideas”.
“He really trusted Warren. He thought he was a really good man,” Mr Saffron said.
As to his father’s battles in his dying years to restore his reputation by suing anyone who referred to him as Mr Sin, Mr Saffron said he had wasted thousands of dollars. He said he told his father: “Don’t try to clean it up. Everybody knows you did it.”
“He was a sinful man,” his son said, “but he was not Mr Sin.” That person, he said, was a doctor whom he would not name.
Ah Sydney, where truth has so often been stranger than fiction!