Abraham Gilbert “Mr. Sin” Saffron

Abraham Gilbert “Mr. Sin” Saffron

Annandale, Inner West Council, New South Wales, Australia
Death 15 Sep 2006 (aged 86)
Sydney, City of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Burial Rookwood, Cumberland Council, New South Wales, Australia
Memorial ID 63181530 · View Source
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Abraham Gilbert (Abe) Saffron (6 October 1919 - 15 September 2006), was an Australian nightclub owner and property developer who was reputed to have been one of the major figures in Australian organised crime in the latter half of the 20th century.
For several decades, members of government, the judiciary and the media made repeated allegations that Saffron was involved in a wide range of criminal activities, including illegal alcohol sales, dealing in stolen goods, illegal gambling, prostitution, drug dealing, bribery and extortion. He was charged with a range of offences including "scandalous conduct", possession of an unlicensed firearm and possession of stolen goods, but his only major conviction was for tax evasion.
He gained nationwide notoriety, earning the nicknames "Mr Sin", "a Mr Big of Australian crime" and "the boss of the Cross" (a reference to the Kings Cross red-light district, where he owned numerous businesses).
He was alleged to have been involved in police corruption and bribing politicians. Saffron always vigorously denied such accusations, however, and was renowned for the extent to which he was willing to sue for libel against his accusers.
Saffron was born in Annandale in 1919, of Russian Jewish descent. He was educated at Annandale and Leichhardt primary schools and at the highly prestigious Fort Street High School. Although his mother hoped he would become a doctor, Saffron left school at 15 and began his business career in the family's drapery firm in the late 1930s. He enlisted in the Australian Army on 5 August 1940, and reached the rank of Corporal before being discharged 4 January 1944. Saffron did not serve overseas. Saffron then served in the Merchant Navy from January to June 1944.
Upon leaving the Merchant Navy, he became involved with a notorious Sydney nightclub called The Roosevelt Club, co-owned by "prominent Sydney businessman" Sammy Lee. It is claimed that Saffron began his rise to power in the Sydney underworld through his involvement in the lucrative sale of black-market alcohol at the Roosevelt.
At the time, NSW clubs and pubs were subject to strict licencing laws which limited trading hours and regulated alcohol prices and sale conditions. When Saffron began working at the Roosevelt, alcohol sales were also subject to wartime rationing regulations. A subsequent Royal Commission into the NSW liquor trade heard evidence that in the early 1950s The Rooer being declared a "disorderly house" by the NSW Police Commissioner. After Saffron sold the Roosevelt, it was able to be re-opened. Saffron then relocated to Newcastle; he worked there for a time as a bookmaker, but it has been reported that he was not successful.
When questioned by a Royal Commission about how he had obtained the substantial sum (£3000) with which he bought his first pub licence in Newcastle, he claimed that the money had come from savings he had accumulated from his bookmaking activity, although he was notably vague when pressed about the exact sources of this income.
In 1948 Saffron returned to Sydney and began purchasing licences for a string of Sydney pubs. It was later alleged that he also established covert controlling interests in numerous other pubs through a series of "dummy" owners. The 1954 Maxwell Royal Commission heard evidence that Saffron used these pubs to obtain legitimately purchased alcohol, diverting it to the various nightclubs and other businesses that he operated and selling at black market prices, realising vast profits.
By the 1960s Saffron owned or controlled a string of nightclubs, strip joints and sex shops in Kings Cross, including the Sydney club Les Girls, home of the famous transvestite revue. During this period he began to expand his business operations into "legitimate" enterprises and to establish holdings in other states, leading several other state governments to launch inquiries into his activities.
One of the most contentious incidents in Saffron's career was his rumoured involvement in the disappearance and presumed murder of newspaper publisher and anti-development campaigner Juanita Neilsen in July 1975. Although no direct connection to the crime was ever established, Saffron was shown to have had proven connections with several people suspected of being involved in Nielsen's disappearance. Saffron owned the Carousel nightclub in Kings Cross, where Nieslen was last seen on the day of her disappearance; his reputed deputy James McCartney Anderson managed the club; one of the men later convicted of conspiring to kidnap Nielsen was Eddie Trigg, the night manager of the club; it was also reported that Saffron had financial links with developer Frank Theeman, against whose development Nielsen was campaigning.
In the 1980s investigative journalist David Hickie published his landmark book The Prince and The Premier, which included a substantial section detailing Saffron's alleged involvement in many aspects of organised crime in Sydney. The book's central thesis was that former NSW Premier Robert Askin was corrupt, that Askin and Police Commissioners Norman Allan and Fred Hanson received huge bribes from the illegal gaming industry over many years, and that Askin and other senior public officials had overseen and approved of a major expansion of organised crime in New South Wales.
Using only material that was already in the public domain, sourced from evidence tendered to royal commissions and allegations made by politicians under parliamentary privilege, Hickie devoted an entire section of his book to Saffron's business activities. Among the most damning material was the detailed evidence tendered to the 1954 Maxwell Royal Commission into the NSW liquor trade, which concluded that Saffron had established covert controlling interests in numerous NSW pubs to supply his "sly grog" outlets, and that he had systematically made false statement to the Commission and sworn false oaths before the NSW Licencing Court.
Furthermore, in the second edition of The Politics of Heroin by Alfred W. McCoy, in a chapter summarising the Nugan Hand Bank it is mentioned that Askin and Saffron regularly had dinner together at the Bourbon and Beefsteak Bar and Restaurant, owned by American expatriate Maurice Bernard Houghton.
The NSW Police were unable to effect any substantial convictions against Saffron over a period of almost 40 years, which only served to reinforce the public concerns about his alleged influence over state police and government officials, but after the establishment of the National Crime Authority in the 1980s, he became a major target for the new federal investigative body.
n November 1987, following an extensive investigation by the NCA and the Australian Taxation Office, Saffron was found guilty of tax evasion. His conviction was largely made possible by evidence provided by his former associate Jim Anderson, who testified that Saffron's clubs routinely kept two sets of accounts—one set of so-called "black" books, which recorded actual turnover, and another set ("white" books) which were purposely fabricated with the intent of evading tax by falsifying income.
Despite several legal appeals, Saffron served 17 months in jail. Judge Loveday said on sentencing "In my view the maximum penalty of three years is inadequate."
Saffron undertook a number of highly publicised defamation cases against various publications; he unsuccessfully sued The Sydney Morning Herald but was successful in later suits against the authors, publishers and distributors of Tough: 101 Australian Gangsters[6] and the publishers of The Gold Coast Bulletin, which contained a defamatory crossword clue.
Prior to his death he lived in retirement at Potts Point, Sydney. Abe Saffron died at St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney Australia in 2006, aged 86. He was interred next to his wife Doreen, at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney.
In November 2006 the Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that Saffron's only son Alan would receive only $500,000 from his father's multi-million dollar estate; the article quoted various estimates of the value of the estate that ranged from AU$30 million to as much as $140 million. The article reported that Saffron's eight grandchildren (including Alan Saffron's five children) would receive $1 million each, Saffron's mistress Teresa Tkaczyk would receive a lifetime annuity of $1000 a week and the couple's apartments in Surry Hills, Elizabeth Bay and the Gold Coast and that Melissa Hagenfelds (Saffron's daughter by his former mistress Rita Hagenfelds) would also receive a $1,000 a week annuity and apartments at Centennial Park and Elizabeth Bay. Other reported provisions of the will included bequests of up to $10 million to various charities.
In May 2007 the Sydney Morning Herald published an article on Saffron's reputed involvement in the infamous Ghost Train fire at Luna Park Sydney in 1979, when a suspected arson attack destroyed the popular ride, killing seven people. In an interview with Herald journalist Kate McClymont, Saffron's niece Anne Buckingham linked Saffron to the fire, stating that her uncle "liked to collect things" and that he intended to purchase Luna Park.
At the time of the fire, the park was being leased to property developer Leon Fink and his partner, who told the Herald that he had been stopped from purchasing the park by the then state ALP government of Neville Wran -- reputedly because Fink's business partner Nathan Spatt had made derogatory comments about Wran's use of a private aircraft belonging to Sir Peter Abeles -- and Fink said that Wran once said to him at a function: "While my bum points to the ground, your partner will not get that lease." The Herald story also stated that a parliamentary report revealed that then Deputy Premier Jack Ferguson had told John Ducker (head of the Labor Council of New South Wales) that Wran had decided that Fink would not get Wran's support because he did not donate enough money to the ALP.
In August 2007 Allen & Unwin published the first major biography of Saffron, written by investigative journalist Tony Reeves, author of the 2005 biography of notorious Sydney gangster Lenny McPherson.
In July 2008 Abe Saffron's only son Alan returned to Australia from his home in the USA to promote his memoir Gentle Satan: Abe Saffron, My Father and the publication of the book was widely covered in the Australian media. According to a Sydney Morning Herald report, Saffron's book names former Saffron associate James McCartney Anderson as the chief agent of the conspiracy to silence Juanita Nielsen. Anderson (who died in 2003) consistently denied any involvement while he was alive, but police reportedly failed to check Anderson's alibi that he was interstate when Nielsen disappeared.
In an interview with Herald reporter Lisa Carty, Alan Saffron said that he had received death threats over the book because it would name some of the people involved the Juanita Nielsen conspiracy, but that he was unable to name all those involved for legal reasons, because some were still alive.
Saffron claimed he could name people "much bigger" than former NSW premier Robert Askin and former police commissioner Norman Allan, with whom his father corruptly dealt to protect his gambling, nightclub and prostitution businesses. Saffron specifically referred to:
"... one particular businessman I was desperate to name, and there's one particular police officer who is extremely high ranking. They're the biggest names you can imagine in Australia".
According to the Herald article, all the conspirators are named in the original manuscript of the book, which is now in the possession of Saffron's publishers, Penguin, and that the book would be re-published with additional names after people not originally named had died.
A follow-up article published the next day carried Alan Saffron's assertion that his father controlled the vice trade, including illegal gambling and prostitution, in every state except Tasmania and the Northern Territory, and that he bribed "a host of politicians and policemen" to ensure he was protected from prosecution.
Later in his career Abe Saffron reportedly began laundering his huge illegal income through loan sharking and that the late media magnate Kerry Packer was among those who borrowed money from Abe Saffron, allegedly to cover gambling debts.
The book also alleges that Saffron loaned money to several other prominent Sydney businessmen including Frank Theeman (whose controversial Kings Cross development was the target of Juanita Nielsen's campaign) as well as former TNT boss Sir Peter Abeles and property tycoon Sir Paul Strasser, both of whom received knighthoods during Askin's premiership.
The book lends further weight to the long-standing allegations of corruption against former NSW Premier Robert Askin and Police Commissioner Norman Allan. It claims that Saffron made payments of between AU$5000 and $10,000 per week to each man over many years, that Askin and Allan both visited Saffron's office on several occasions, that Allan also visited the Saffron family home, and that Abe Saffron paid for an all-expenses overseas trip for Allan and a young female 'friend'.
Later in Askin's premiership, according to Alan Saffron, his father became the "bagman" for Sydney's illegal liquor and prostitution rackets and most illegal gambling activities, collecting payoffs that were then passed to Askin, Allan and others; in return his father was completely protected.



Abe Saffron had a bad reputation and he defended it vigorously to the last. Malcolm Brown reports on his life and crimes:
One story, probably apocryphal, about Abraham Gilbert Saffron, the Jewish boy who went to Fort Street High, earned a quid by reselling used textbooks, then went on to enjoy a life of sleaze, comes from the Gold Coast.
A woman nightclub owner, being stood over by local thugs, called Saffron to ask whether he could help. Before the next scheduled visit by the extortionists, two men arrived and told her to relax and ignore them, they would wait. That night the two extortionists were admitted to Southport Hospital, severely beaten, and the extortion stopped.
A slightly built, dapper man, Saffron had enormous influence and his business tentacles reached across Australia. But his reputation was dreadful. He was constantly attacked: in the South Australian Parliament by the then premier Don Dunstan, who described him as being "one of the principal characters in organised crime in Australia"; in Federal Parliament by the then senator Don Chipp, who described him as "one of the most notorious, despicable human beings - if one can use that term loosely - living in this country". In the Victorian Parliament he was called "Gomorrah himself", a reference to a person linked with drug activities, who went by that name in evidence to the Costigan royal commission into the Painters and Dockers Union. Saffron always reacted badly to inferences that he was involved in drugs. Twice he rang this writer at the Herald to specifically state that he was not involved. And if anyone thought he was undefamable, they were in for a rude shock. The Melbourne Age called him "Mr Sin" - he sued and won.
Abe Saffron was born on October 6, 1919, the youngest child of a draper. He grew up with two brothers and two sisters in a unit above his father's shop in Parramatta Road, Annandale. He was bright, and his mother wanted him to become a doctor, but he chose to leave school at 15. He started working in his father's shop. The following year his father moved to a new shop, in Pitt Street, which was bigger and had more staff. In 1938 Abe acquired a minor conviction - and a £5 fine - for a betting offence. In 1940, he was convicted of receiving stolen goods and sentenced to six months hard labour, suspended on entering a £10 good behaviour bond. Saffron enlisted in the army but in 1943 switched to the merchant navy and for many years proudly wore his RSL badge.
At war's end, Saffron went into the hotel business, making a success of pubs in Kurri Kurri and Newcastle in the Hunter Valley, then moving to Sydney, where he acquired the West End Hotel in Balmain and the Gladstone Hotel in East Sydney. He had a go at professional bookmaking but was unsuccessful and decided to stick with hotels. In 1947 he married a hairdresser, Doreen, and bought the Roosevelt nightclub in Orwell Street, Kings Cross. His marriage both to Doreen and the Cross was to last, though these two elements in his life had a most uneasy relationship. He got into more trouble when he was convicted of possessing an unlicensed pistol and was released on a £10 bond to be of good behaviour for two years.
Saffron's entry into the nightclub industry brought him into contact with the seamy side of Sydney, which he took up with relish. Doreen said later that the Roosevelt "seemed to have changed [Abe's] personality". Saffron, whose son, Alan, was born in 1949, started acquiring an unsavoury reputation. He said in People magazine in 1951 that he had nothing to do with baccarat games and that his name "seems to have been linked with everything notorious around this town".
Probably to counter his deteriorating image, Saffron participated in charity work. He organised a Christmas party for crippled children. He also gave financial advice to the Woolloomooloo Police Boys' Club that won him praise from the local police inspector. He helped raise money for the Miss Australia Quest and contributed to the Lord Mayor's Relief Fund through membership of the Kings Cross Chamber of Commerce. But in 1952 he was obliged to defend a charge in the Central Criminal Court of giving false evidence.
In 1954 a royal commission into the liquor laws, conducted by Justice Victor Maxwell snr, found that Saffron had employed people to get liquor licences on his behalf and that he had concealed his interest from the Licensing Court. Some of those licences applied to hotels that sold black market beer to the Roosevelt, which Maxwell described as "possibly the most notorious and disreputable nightclub in Sydney". Maxwell said: "A. G. Saffron ultimately admitted his beneficial interest in a number of hotels using people as dummies. These hotels included the West End Hotel, Westdale Hotel, Cumberland, Gladstone and Albert Hotels."
There was concern interstate about Saffron. A question was asked in the West Australian Parliament about whether Saffron was about to take over a hotel in that state. He was searched vigorously by customs officers whenever he turned up at an airport.
Saffron was not above playing around. He was charged with scandalous conduct following a police raid at Palm Beach and comments by the police prosecutor about Saffron's private morality were most unflattering. The prosecutor referred to him as sexually depraved. Despite that, Saffron beat the charges but scarcely changed his conduct, forming a de facto relationship that produced a daughter. In 1964 he fought charges of receiving stolen property but was coming under increasing scrutiny by law enforcement agencies. The Moffitt royal commission into allegations of infiltration of organised crime into licensed clubs in 1974 gave him the title of "Mr Sin", and though a police witness said it did not apply to him, it stuck. Questions were raised in South Australia about whether he controlled the drug trade in Adelaide. Saffron gave a media conference to rebut them and to declare that his business interests were "totally legitimate".
Those business interests were extensive. Living in Sydney's exclusive Vaucluse, he was reported to have interests in hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, casinos, a sex shop, adult movie clubs and development and finance companies. He made extensive use of front men, but his real strength lay in his ability to get on with police, giving them what they wanted, and his corrupt links were said to have reached to the top levels. That is one interpretation of how Saffron was able to repeatedly beat charges in court.
In the 1980s Saffron was having trouble with arson attacks on his premises. He was also being pursued by the NSW Police Licensing Squad. The arson he might have been able to handle, the licensing police hurt him. He made a series of visits to the then deputy commissioner, Bill Allen, who later cornered the licensing squad head, Warren Molloy, and gave him money - a matter later explored by the NSW Police Tribunal, and which led to Allen's demise. The money was understood to have been an inducement to Molloy not to perform his duty, and Molloy turned out to be an honest cop.
Saffron was able to rebut allegations that he had had anything to do with the disappearance of the Mark Foys heiress Juanita Nielsen in Kings Cross in 1975, over her activities as the editor of a radical Kings Cross newspaper. The activities affected a development project in which Saffron, according to planning documents, had an interest. Saffron came under further attack when it was alleged that Saffron-owned companies held a lease over a property held by the Public Transport Authority. Chipp told parliament that the building housed a gambling club, a brothel and a sex shop. He said the government had been obliged to buy out the lease, at a cost to the public of $2.6 million, but there was no record of any action having been taken against the gambling club or the brothel. "This all reads like an extract from a novel like The Godfather or a novel about mobster rule in Chicago or Kings Cross," he said.
The man who proved his undoing was an associate, James McCartney Anderson, with whom he had had a falling out. Anderson put the boot in, accusing Saffron of bribing police and evaded tax. He said Saffron had provided "champagne, cognac and a few girls" in his Crown Street liquor store in East Sydney. The tax got him. Saffron went about his usual denials but there were documents to show there were two books, one to record the actual cash flow, another for tax. Saffron was charged with one count of conspiring with Anderson to defraud the Commonwealth of tax between January 1, 1969, and June 30, 1981. He was convicted on October 23, 1987, and sentenced to three years' jail. He was stripped of all his NSW liquor licences. He served 17 months before being released on parole to face more tax charges.
By then, 69 years of age, he had much of the starch taken out of him. But not the fight. When the Gold Coast Bulletin published a crossword with the clue "Sydney underworld figure, named Mr Sin", the answer was Abe Saffron. Saffron went for his lawyers and fought it in court and won. At least he did not send his thugs to put the publisher in hospital.


Alan Saffron, son of the Kings Cross crime figure Abe Saffron, yesterday launched an extraordinary defence of his late father, saying: "He was a beautiful man."
Mr Saffron, who arrives from Los Angeles today to attend his father's funeral service tomorrow afternoon, said: "I am devastated about the stories that have appeared in the last 24 hours. In death he's being defamed again. It's unfair and un-Australian."
Abraham Gilbert Saffron died at St Vincent's Private Hospital on Friday. His death has once more propelled him into the headlines, with his name linked to the sex trade, sly grog rackets, the 1975 disappearance of Juanita Nielsen,
the 1979 Luna Park fire that killed seven, drug trafficking, arson, bribery, blackmail and extortion.
The funeral of the legendary "King of Kings Cross", who died at 86, will be a Jewish service at the Chevra Kadisha in Woollahra followed by his burial at Rookwood Cemetery next to his wife, Doreen, who died in 1999.
Saffron was holidaying in Israel in July when he was taken ill with heart problems.
The end came with his long-time partner, Teresa "Terry" Tkaczyk, at his bedside. He is survived by his son Alan, 57, daughter Melissa, 43, and long-term mistress Rita Hagenfelds.

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Video: Snapshots from the life of the "King of the Cross"

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ABRAHAM GILBERT SAFFRON 6.10.1919-15.9.2006


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  • Find a Grave Memorial 63181530
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Abraham Gilbert “Mr. Sin” Saffron (6 Oct 1919–15 Sep 2006), Find a Grave Memorial no. 63181530, citing Rookwood General Cemetery, Rookwood, Cumberland Council, New South Wales, Australia ; Maintained by graver (contributor 47037760) .