The downturn in the grape market had a potentially disastrous outcome when a company director allegedly planned to bomb a winery over lost income.
Steven Bergamin, 23, is accused of planning to blame terrorists for his plot to bomb the Gapsted winery, between Myrtleford and Bright in north-east Victoria.
He allegedly told an associate he wanted the winery “levelled … lock, stock and barrel”.
A detective told a bail hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday that Bergamin was angered by a cut in grape prices and said the winery “had to go”.
“I want it to look like terrorists have done it,” he allegedly said.
The court was told that Bergamin was the director of the family-owned tobacco and grape business, Bergamin Wine and Spirits, in Cheshunt. Detective Senior Constable Damian Jackson said that Bergamins had derived substantial income from selling grapes to Miranda Wines. In late 2002, when Miranda Wines reduced the amount they paid for grapes by 15 per cent, Gapsted offered to buy the excess at a greatly reduced price.
Bergamin was angered by what he saw as a potential loss of $90,000 and approached an associate with the bomb plan, Senior Constable Jackson said. The associate was offered $5000 in expenses and a year’s wages when the job was done.
Bergamin is alleged to have told the associate that “I want to be there when it happens … so I can watch it explode”.
Senior Constable Jackson said that police recorded conversations with Bergamin in January 2003 until the plot was cancelled because Bergamin believed Gapsted was in financial trouble.
Bergamin was arrested by appointment yesterday when he attended the homicide squad offices for an interview in which he made no comment.
Police did not oppose bail provided certain conditions were set.
Asked by magistrate Lisa Hannan why there had been a delay in charging Bergamin, Senior Constable Jackson said there had been an earlier, separate investigation after which his father, John Bergamin, 45, was charged with murdering his wife.
Bergamin faces two charges of incitement to commit criminal damage.
He was granted bail with a $10,000 surety and residential and travel restrictions. At his court appearance he was given a suspended sentence.
The court heard the 25-year-old engaged a private investigator and an undercover policeman to do the job, using a remote-controlled device so he could watch from a distance.
The court heard his case was delayed by the police investigation into the disappearance of his mother, Kath Bergamin, who has not been seen since 2002.
Bergamin pleaded guilty to one count of incitement to commit criminal damage and was fined and sentenced to 12 months’ jail suspended for two years.