Gangster linked to horse trainer's murder

Gangland investigators are set to turn up the heat on Victorian racing's underbelly amid reports homicide detectives are closing in on murdered trainer Les Samba's assassin.

Fairfax Media believes Purana taskforce investigators will within weeks present prosecutors with a brief of evidence into a race-fixing probe running parallel to the Samba murder investigation, and which could decide suspended jockey Danny Nikolic's future.

Detectives have been investigating Nikolic's role in the Smoking Aces race-fixing scandal at Cranbourne last year. Nikolic is currently serving a two-year ban for threatening chief steward Terry Bailey in a separate incident.

The development ups the ante on an industry already under fire over the Damien Oliver betting scandal, and which is in an ugly legal brawl with Nikolic – Samba's former son-in-law.

Police on Wednesday refused to confirm reports that a gangland figure with racing links is being linked to Samba's killing.

The Herald Sun says the man has convictions for "extreme violence" over decades, was once "caught with a loaded semi-automatic pistol", has connections to AFL footballers and was an associate of Moran-family men killed in the Melbourne gangland war.

Mr Samba was found shot dead in Beaconsfield Parade, Middle Park in February last year.

Police on Wednesday refused to comment on the Purana investigation into alleged race fixing, or on developments in the murder investigation.

A $1 million reward is in place for information leading to an arrest in the Samba case.

"As this is an ongoing and active investigation, Victoria Police will not comment on any potential suspects or persons of interest," a spokeswoman said.

Fairfax Media revealed in August that the investigation into Samba's death had uncovered race-fixing allegations centred on a race involving a horse called Smoking Aces that was ridden by Nikolic at Cranbourne last year.

These allegations led to a probe that helped expose champion jockey Damien Oliver as having placed a $10,000 bet on a rival horse in a race he rode at Moonee Valley in 2010.

Oliver was charged by Racing Victoria Limited over the betting scandal on Tuesday after he allegedly formally admitted placing the bet and breaking the rules of racing.

However, Fairfax Media reported on Melbourne Cup day that RVL was already aware of Oliver's bet.

RVL chief executive Rob Hines flatly denied on Tuesday that he knew of Oliver's admission and had failed to act to protect racing's showpiece carnival.

However, Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that senior racing figures had been told by Hines of Oliver's bet before the Cup carnival, and that police had also learnt of the wager.

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