Man who smuggled drugs up bum quizzed on shooting
THE man being questioned by police in relation to the shooting death of Ivona Jovanovic had a connection to the infamous Barbaro crime family and was twice caught smuggling drugs up his bum into prison.
Christos Panagakos, 27, is behind bars on a return-to-prison warrant after being arrested about 1am on Monday.
He was returning to his Highland Park home, hours after his former girlfriend Ms Jovanovic was fatally shot. He has not been charged with any offence.
It is understood Panagakos and a number of other people were inside the home when Ms Jovanovic was shot in the chest about 8.30pm. They ran from the Renfrew Drive house, leaving the 27-year-old waitress slowly dying on the ground.
Sources have told the Bulletin that Mr Panagakos' mother, who owns the home according to real estate data, called emergency services. Despite their best efforts Ms Jovanovic died at the Gold Coast University Hospital a short time later.
No one has been charged in relation to Ms Jovanovic's death.
Although not a member of the Mongols, it is alleged Panagakos has strong ties to the outlaw motorcycle gang.
Panagakos has an extensive criminal history, including
- trafficking drugs;
- dangerous conduct with a weapon;
- supply drugs;
- obstruct police;
- possession of a shortened firearm;
- wilful damage;
- possess drugs;
- public nuisance;
- failure to dispose of a syringe correctly.
Panagakos walked from court in April 2016 after pleading guilty to minor drug charges.
He was facing eight drugs and weapons charges, but the more serious charges were dropped after it was ruled police had unlawfully searched his car.
It was alleged in court at the time that Panagakos was suspected of being "involved in a criminal network" and in "drug distribution network" but police found only small amounts of drugs at his home.
Two ecstasy tablets, three types of anabolic steroids, 101 Viagra tablets, $16,650 in cash found in his bedroom, were seized. One of the steroids Panagakos admitted to possessing was the cattle drug Trenbolone, which is used to boost muscles and appetite.
Police also found a "tick sheet" of alleged drug debts under his bed. At the time of the search Panagakos had been out of jail for one month after serving time for dangerous driving.
Court documents revealed Panagakos had been at a Coolangatta restaurant with Rossario Dom Barbaro, brother of slain Melbourne underworld figure Pasquale and Villains gang member Harley, hours before his home was raided.
The pair were both charged with possession of a commercial quantity of ice after a search of Panagakos' car uncovered 28g of ice. This was the charge dropped after Supreme Court judge Martin Daubney ruled police had unlawfully searched his car.
Justice John Byrne sentenced Panagakos to 18 months in jail after he pleaded guilty to the minor drugs and weapons charges.
He walked from court after serving seven months at Capricornia prison in Rockhampton.
Panagakos then moved to Mackay to live with his then girlfriend.
A year later, on July 25, 2017, Panagakos fronted a Mackay court after phone taps brought down his drug dealing enterprise.
He pleaded guilty to three charges of trafficking dangerous drugs (meth and ecstasy) between March and April 2015.
Crown Prosecutor Nathan Crane said at the time Panagakos was caught up in a "web of activity" with other drug dealers and buyers.
One of the trafficking charges related to a phone tap, which showed Panagakos had been looking to buy between four and eight ounces of ice from Beenleigh.
Another was linked to an ice deal for a buyer who was prepared to pay up to $6700 for an unknown amount, Mr Crane said.
Panagakos had described the product he was selling, which he obtained as a middleman, as "f***ing primo", according to Justice James Henry.
Discovered by police text intercepts, the last charge involved the sale of 500 MDMA (ecstasy) pills.
Mr Crane described Panagakos' wholesale dealing as sophisticated and a considerable logistic exercise.
His defence barrister Ron Frigo said Panagakos had been "in the grips of drug addiction" since he was 17 or 18, but had been clean for a year.
On July 27, he was sentenced to three and a half years in jail, with a parole eligibility of 10 months.
Justice Henry described Panagakos' "appalling criminal history" which stretched eight pages at the time.
In a continuing turn, Panagakos underwent an extensive body search as he was being prepared to be sent to prison, when drugs dropped from his buttocks on the same day of his sentencing.
On December 6, 2017 the same court heard he had stashed ice and valium inside his backside in an "extremely stupid" attempt at smuggling drugs into prison.
It was revealed in court that Panagakos was busted after a similar stunt at Ipswich police station in July, 2015, when he smuggled in a bag of assorted drugs in his buttocks.
The then 25-year-old pleaded guilty to three counts of drug possession, one dated July 4, 2015 and two on July 27, 2017.
Prosecutor Bernhard Berger told Magistrate Mark Nolan that Panagakos had a lengthy criminal history and there was "obviously some aggravating features" surrounding his smuggling attempts.
"Both offences involve possession of substance while either being in custody or being taken to custody," he said.
Defence solicitor Mark Williams, of Potts Lawyers, said Panagakos was "ashamed" about his decisions.
"He instructs the reason why he did what he did was simply to reduce his stress and anxiety about going to prison," he said.
"But he recognises that not only were his actions just extremely stupid, to use his words, but they were very contrary to the generous discounts that his honour Justice (James) Henry had given him in sentencing."
Panagakos read out a letter over video, in which he said he'd be seeking professional help: "Since being in custody I've had the opportunity to reflect on the nature of my offending behaviour," he said.
"What is apparent is that I use drugs to self medicate during stressful situations that I have difficulty coping with.
"I now realise this has been cowardly on my behalf and I'm simply running away from problems rather than dealing with them in a mature manner."
Panagakos said he was "truly sorry" and he'd had a "wake up call" after a "long hard look" at himself while in prison.