By ALEX MITCHELL
THIS is a story of injustice. Cruel,
criminal, cold injustice.
As a result, a man's life has been
ruined, financially and socially.
The victim, Raymond Latona of
Baulkham Hills has held himself
together with will power and the
devotion of his family.
There is a tragic dimension to Mr
Latona's tireless efforts to gain
compensation for his stolen property
and wealth. He is slowly dying from
an inoperable brain tumour.
His courageous lone fight for justice
has won him allies in the highest courts
in the land and from the highest
office-holders includ-ing Prime
Minister John Howard.
While everyone agrees that
55-year-old Mr Latona has been
shamefully wronged, no one is willing
to take the next step to rectify the
One factor is undoubtedly the sheer
size of the compensation he is due, It's
around $28 million, though negotiable.
He isn't the proletarian battler fighting
capitalist plutocrats. On the contrary,
he's a former multi-millionaire who is a
Liberal loyalist, an ardent royalist, and
a man whose life has been driven by
the conservative certainties of honour,
good manners and respectability.
This makes it almost impossible for
him to understand what has happened
to his life.
"Can you believe this?" he asked
"It's like a nightmare and I keep
thinking that maybe I'll wake up and it
won't be true."
The nightmare began in 1982 when he
was taken to court and declared
bankrupt over an alleged debt of
$11,000 to a building firm.
To Raymond and Mary Latona, the
sum was almost a pittance but it
triggered a bitter legal dispute which
resulted in their bankruptcy even
though they had vast assets to cover
the original debt.
Worse was to come when the Trustee
in Bankruptcy was appointed to
dispose of the Latonas' assets.
A beach house on the exclusive
Mackerel Bay dress circle opposite
Palm Beach was sold for just $47,000
even though it was inde-pendently
valued at $120,000 (1985 prices)
His magnificent collection of 25 cars,
including a Mercedes Benz, and
vintage Vauxhalls went for $11,000.
A Kellyville home set in spacious
grounds was dispatched for $60,000
and another house at
Kingsford for $50,000.
But the greatest travesty was the
sale of his 2ha property known as
Vineyard on the Windsor Road.
Independently valued between
$850,000 and $1 million it was
auctioned for $300,500 even though
a finance company acting for Mr
Latona offered $400,000.
A boat worth $27,000 was seized
and sold for $5,200.
In Mr Latona's words: "We had
nowhere to live and we had no
In Federal Parliament, Liberal MP
for Mitchell Alan Cadman claimed
the family's assets had been sold for
between $500,000 and $900,000
less than their worth.
Liberal Party heavyweights such as
Mr Cadman, Nick Greiner, former
Hills MP Fred Caterson and
Baulkham Hills MP Wayne Merton
rallied in support of the Latonas.
Former NSW Ombudsman George
Masterman wrote to Police
Commissioner John Avery in 1985
drawing attention to the police
involvement in Mr Latona's plight.
"Documents [from Mr Latona] raise
serious allegations of default by
police in carrying out their duty," said
"They suggest that there might have
been serious criminal activity on the
part of certain persons ...
In 1994, then Opposition Leader
John Howard wrote to Labor's
Attorney-General Michael Lavarch
championing Mr Latona's right to
He said Mr and Mrs Latona had
good reason to believe that
fraudu-lent documents had been
used against them.
Imagine Mr Latona's grave
disappointment when his State MP
Wayne Merton received a letter on
the new Prime Minister's notepaper
in June, signed by senior adviser
Catherine Murphy, which said: "The
Prime Minister has long been aware
of the unfortunate position of Mr and
"While it would be desirable that the
matter be resolved as soon as
practicable, I regret that the Prime
Minister is unable to intervene in the
legal matters of individual
After having a series of legal
advisers, Mr Latona has engaged
Parramatta solicitor Ross Barwick,
son of former Federal
Attorney-General and High Court
Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick,
who has begun proceedings to
reopen the case.
On the evidence, Mr Barwick
believes the Latonas should not have
been bankrupted because they were
not insolvent and their assets were
sold at "giveaway" prices.