CRIME cases in the Supreme Court are usually filled with high drama, human tragedy and tense testimony. You can cut the air with a knife (unless it has been taken from you by staff at the newfangled metal detector machine).
Commercial cases, on the other hand, tend to drag on, and seem to be the exclusive domain of crusty old barristers who have double degrees in dandruff and fortified wine.
But occasionally the lines are crossed and the colourful characters from crime find themselves up to their tattooed buttocks in civil litigation.
Such is the circumstance in the seemingly innocuous case of Essendon Apartment Developments v Jennifer Shaw and others.
This is a squabble over power and money in what should have been a lucrative property development at 1048-1060 Mount Alexander Road, Essendon. The parties in dispute have wildly varying recollections of events, and everyone seems to believe they are the victims of a ripoff.
Once, ''property developer'' was a euphemism for a safari-suited Queenslander with a taste for Bundaberg Rum and retired game show hostesses. Now, anyone who can spell ''negative gear'' and has an accountant with a gold tooth has jumped into the market.
However, the Essendon development is no place for mum and dad investors - it is a heavy-duty deal involving some seriously heavy hitters.
Many colourful names have been mentioned, but there is an elephant in the room - or, more accurately, an inmate in a cell - who looms large. It is our old friend Tony Mokbel.
On one side we have Jacobus ("call me Jack") Smit and Danielle McGuire. One was drug dealer Tony Mokbel's business partner, and the other Mokbel's lover. (Just for the record, Jack was the business partner).
On the other side we have Jennifer Shaw, company director and mother of three.
The dispute centres on a property that for many years traded as the Nursery Cafe - a family-friendly spot investors hope to turn into a nine-storey, 101-apartment complex, with a two-level basement car park, a cafe and a convenience store.
Jack and Danni say $1 million from the development has been misappropriated and that they are the victims of a swindle most foul.
Ms Shaw tells a very different story. In her sworn affidavits, she says she was unlawfully removed as a director of the company, had her emails hacked, was forced to give McGuire crushing cash payments of $3500 per week and has been left near financial ruin.
She also says sworn statements by Smit and McGuire are ''false''.
Now, the very sensible justices of the Supreme Court will decide the rights and wrongs of this dispute.
In the meantime, let us look at some of the stars of this financial melodrama.
First we have Jumping Jack Smit.
At one stage he lived in the neighbouring Port Melbourne apartment to Mr Mokbel (which would have saved a fortune on conference calls). That is, until August 2000 when Tony was rudely woken by detectives from Operation Kayak and arrested over importing chemicals that could be turned into 40 million disco pills.
The bayside neighbours' joint business ventures ranged from the solid to the sordid to the fanciful - among them, Brunswick steakhouse TJ's (Tony and Jack: Geddit?), the Top of the Town massage parlour, fashion houses and even a fragrance line.
But it was in the area of property that the pair expected to make a (cough) killing.
They were behind the bizarre plan to build an $18 million wing-keeled monstrosity in Sydney Road, Brunswick. Fortunately it sank without trace. But while in partnership with Smit, Mokbel built his property interests to around $15 million. Not bad for a struggling pizza shop owner who a few years earlier had a declared income of $160 a week and was on the verge of bankruptcy.
And when the whole empire was about to collapse after Mokbel's arrest, it was Smit who tried to broker a rescue package with National Australia Bank - the institution that had lent Tony $7 million.
Even as Smit headed in another ambitious direction with his developments, the house of Mokbel was ever present. When Jack's proposed multimillion-dollar resort on the Gippsland Lakes went pear-shaped, Tony's brother Milad fronted one of the partners and demanded money, claiming he had provided the funds to Smit. Negotiations did not go well and Milad was charged with making threats to kill (later reduced to attempted blackmail).
But these matters are in the past and so we return to the Essendon development - and Danielle McGuire, former store detective and hairdresser.
In his affidavit, Smit says, "I have known Danielle McGuire for approximately 12 years."
And while mathematics is not our strong suit, that would bring us back to 2000 - exactly the time when McGuire became Mokbel's mistress. In Tony's psychological report, the relationship was described as ''tempestuous but clearly engaging''.
Those who know say it was the R-rated version of Days of Our Lives.
Certainly the love affair was not all beer and skittles - or more accurately retsina and souvlakis.
What we do know is that after Mokbel jumped bail in 2006, McGuire hid out with him for some time at his Bonnie Doon safe house and later followed him to Greece.
There she delivered their baby daughter. As there is no hospital paperwork recording the happy event, the speculation is it was a home birth assisted by a midwife paid well for her expertise and silence.
But, as is often the case, the relationship could not survive the incarceration of one half of the partnership, and they are no longer an item.
McGuire's next male companion was Bandido enforcer Toby Mitchell, who was shot three times in an ambush in Brunswick last December. Mitchell, still recovering from his life-threatening injuries, was seen accompanying McGuire into court to support her in the Essendon dispute.
It is unclear how she became immersed in this latest development. Certainly she is nothing if not busy. In Shaw's affidavit she says she helped McGuire set up another company that had ''recently purchased an existing business with the intent to operate a beauty, therapeutic and paramedical clinic''.
In the statement of claim in the Essendon case, McGuire was said to have ''assumed a co-ordinating and supervising role in the development''. It would seem that as a regular patron at the cafe, she eventually became involved in the proposed apartment block. She says she encouraged at least five of her friends to buy apartments off the plan.
''My interest in these proceedings is primarily by reason of the losses these people now appear are [sic] likely to occur by reason of having accepted my referrals about the development.''
If McGuire was starting to lose her enthusiasm for the Nursery, that process would have been accelerated when in March she was bashed outside the property by a balaclava-clad man with an iron bar.
At the time she was described as partner in the cafe who was helping the owner build some apartments.
As the spat got nastier, Shaw, who had been managing the cafe, left and McGuire took over. ''I now operate it,'' she said in her statement. But not for long. It has since closed.
For some time, locals say, standards at the once-loved family cafe had been slipping. One online reviewer claimed the staff were ''very rude'' while another suggested ''a smile wouldn't hurt''. Now the banks are circling and the development may be on the point of collapse before a sod is turned. Certainly, documents filed in court show a series of bizarre financial claims.
A Mr Charbel Kanati says he borrowed $950,000 from a Mr Antonio Iskaff to invest. The agreement, he claims, ''was verbal''.
Iskaff tells a different story, ''Charbel Kanati does not have a loan agreement with me because one does not exist … I would not have given Charbel Kanati that amount of money without a formal loan agreement.''
Kanati says one of the defendants, Joe Cullia, was employed by Ultra Thoroughbreds and owned or part-owned 10 racehorses.
Ultra Thoroughbreds is owned by the extremely energetic Sean Buckley, whose business empire included the hair restoration business Ultra Hair. One of his clients was none other than Tony Mokbel, who signed a $3000 contract for laser treatment but quit after a few months, preferring the bad wig he was wearing when arrested in Athens.
And Ultra Thoroughbreds? It is based at the Kilmore property once owned by Mokbel. Buckley purchased the spread (entirely legitimately) after Tony hit one of his many legal hurdles.