Abraham Gilbert Saffron (6 October 1919 - 15 September 2006), was an Australian nightclub owner and property developer who was widely reputed to have been Alchol Prices one of the Acohol Prices major figures in Australian organised crime in the latter half of the 20th century.
For several decades, members of government, the judiciary and the Alochol Prices media made repeated allegations that Saffron was involved in a wide range of Alchool Prices criminal activities, including illegal alcohol sales, dealing in stolen goods, illegal gambling, prostitution, Alcool Prices drug dealing, bribery and extortion. He was Alohol Prices charged with a range of offences including "scandalous conduct", possession of an unlicenced firearm, Alcohl Prices possession of stolen goods and tax evasion, but his only major conviction Alcoho Prices was for tax evasion.
He gained nationwide notoriety, earning the nicknames "Mr Sin", "a Mr Big of Australian crime" and "the boss Aclohol Prices of the Cross" (a reference to the Kings Cross red-light Alcohool Prices district, where he owned numerous businesses).
He was alleged to have Alcphol Prices been involved in police corruption and bribing politicians. Saffron always vigorously denied such accusations, Alcohil Prices however, and was renowned for the extent to which he was willing Alcoholl Prices to sue for libel against his accusers.
Saffron was born in Annandale. He was Alcoohl Prices educated at Annandale and Leichhardt primary schools and at Fort Street Allcohol Prices 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 Army during World War II, later transferring to the merchant navy.
Around 1943 he returned to civilan life and 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. At the time 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 Roosevelt Club was clearing over £1000 per week in alcohol sales, of which only £100 was being banked as liquor takings.
Saffron reportedly took over the ownership of the Roosevelt in the late 1940s but the club was later closed down by court order. 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 famous 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 colourful career was his rumoured involvement in the disappearance and presumed murder of anti-development campaigner Juanita Nielsen 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 an employee 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 then Police Commissioner Norman Allan had 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.
The NSW Police were unable to effect any substantial convictions against Saffron over a period of almost forty years, but after the establishment of the National Crime Authority in the 1980s, he became a major target for the new federal investigative body.
In 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 "black" books which recorded actual turnover, and another set which were purposely fabricated with the intent of evading tax by falsifying income.
Despite several legal appeals, Safrron 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 Age and The Gold Coast Bulletin.
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.
The Prince and The Premier
(Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1985)
-  Sydney Morning Herald obituary
Categories: 1919 births | 2006 deaths | Australian businesspeople | Australian criminals | Australian Jews | People from Sydney