Mr Ipswich’s pizza the Melbourne action
THERE's a small pizza shop in Melbourne with a menu offering items from the traditional supreme to a Nutella-smeared number.
It's squeezed into a strip of Indian and Thai restaurants, and hardly seems a place where powerful businessmen cross paths.
But linked to the eatery have been two men with interests in a company trying to set up a controversial development in Ipswich, where the council now finds itself at the heart of a Queensland corruption probe.
The Courier-Mail can reveal that court files allege these two men have financial ties to a string of Melbourne figures, including a lender once accused in court by police of laundering money for the Mokbel crime empire.
One of the pizza pair is Chris Pinzone, 35. A staffer at the eatery tells The Courier-Mail Pinzone was owner until about a month ago.
Pinzone himself did not return multiple calls.
Pinzone keeps a low profile despite his success - his own affidavit in one court dispute outlined his $5.2 million portfolio of seven properties and two eateries.
Once, he testified, he had lent a business partner $30,000 for 25 days. The fee was $3000.
All his anonymity evaporated when it emerged that Pinzone was at a Melbourne hotel in May with then Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale when another man dropped off $50,000 to the politician.
Police would later seize the cash from Pisasale at Melbourne Airport.
Then, Brisbane barrister Sam Di Carlo came forward saying he had asked his mate, Pisasale, to carry the cash for a Chinese client's legal settlement and it was unrelated to Pinzone.
The explanation was made more amazing by the fact the trio had met before.
Backtrack eight months and look to the up-market Cucina Vivo Italian restaurant at Star Gold Coast casino.
Inside, the mood was celebratory; Pisasale presented a smiling Di Carlo with a birthday cake bearing a single candle.
Pisasale and other Ipswich councillors were at the restaurant after earlier attending the nearby local government annual conference.
Also there and meeting councillors was Pinzone, whose company CJP Qld hopes to transform scrubland in Ipswich into a service station, restaurant and childcare development.
Another attendee was Tom Karas. Karas was, in 2007, accused in the Victorian Supreme Court by Victoria's Purana gangland taskforce detectives of laundering money for the Mokbel drug empire.
Karas was not charged with any offence and has reportedly denied involvement with Tony Mokbel or money laundering.
Pinzone later told The Courier-Mail that Karas was a friend and not involved in the Ipswich project.
But The Courier-Mail can reveal other ties between the two men.
Pinzone had been embroiled in a 2015 dispute with former Melbourne partners over property projects.
In the dispute, one partner claimed in affidavits tendered during court proceedings that Pinzone's financial backer was "Capital One Securities and its controller Mr Tom Karas".
Pinzone did not respond to this allegation in court documents.
That link to Karas is just an allegation and attempts to obtain comment from Karas were unsuccessful.
But there is the second pizza guy. Craig Charter is a Melbourne businessman whose company CTC Products trademarked a logo once used by the pizza shop. CTC's other director is Pinzone.
Since June, Charter's Craig Charter Investments also has registered a charge over the assets of Pinzone's Ipswich development company.
And Charter, 54, previously popped up when the ATO was chasing money from Karas' wife, Irene Meletsis.
As debt recovery proceedings started in 2013, Meletsis offloaded three properties, including a prime Victorian-era terrace house overlooking parkland in Melbourne.
The buyer, for $1.16 million, was another Craig Charter company.
Justice Jennifer Davies noted the property transfers appeared to be to entities with "some connection with Ms Meletsis".
Those same properties had caveats placed over them by Performance Health (Aust), whose sole director was convicted steroid trafficker Shane Charter, dubbed "Dr Ageless" for his network of anti-ageing clinics.
Shane Charter and Craig Charter were both former directors of the company Ageless IP.
Shane Charter shot into the spotlight during the Essendon AFL supplements scandal.
He allegedly sourced peptides from China for sports scientist Stephen Dank, but had no direct involvement in providing or delivering the drugs to the Bombers' players.
Peptides are only banned for professional sportspeople, and The Courier-Mail does not suggest any other person in this article had any connection with the supplements scandal.
Shane's Performance Health (Aust) and Karas were also linked through money lending, according to separate court evidence.
Back in Ipswich, the Crime and Corruption Commission has arrested Pisasale on unrelated charges, which he intends to defend. Pinzone has been quizzed by the CCC but not charged with any offence.
No one else from Melbourne has so far been linked to the corruption probe.
It's a long way from a Melbourne pizza store to Ipswich, but in reality, the business connections are just a few steps apart.