A Brooklyn-based crane company owned by prominent debt collector Mick Gatto and business partner Matt Tomas is on the brink of collapse after failing to pay its debts to a subcontractor.
The looming insolvency comes as Fairfax Media revealed on the weekend that a secret recording of Mr Tomas providing assistance to Victoria Police as part of a murder investigation has been leaked to figures in Melbourne's underworld.
Elite Cranes faces a liquidation order in the Supreme Court next month over the failure to settle a $67,057 debt with another crane-hire company, APAC Cranes.
In October, the Magistrates Court ruled that Elite Cranes owed the money to creditors of APAC Cranes, which was placed into administration in 2011 with debts of more than $1 million, according to documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Mr Gatto resigned as a director and secretary of the company in December, but remains a 50 per cent shareholder in the embattled crane hire business.
Mr Gatto told Fairfax Media he was not involved in the daily operations of Elite Cranes, which were handled by his business partner, Mr Tomas.
The Supreme Court has ordered Elite Cranes to pay the debt by August 7. If Elite Cranes refuses to pay, a liquidator will be appointed to determine what assets can be sold to pay off creditors.
According to building industry sources, Elite Cranes has also failed to pay union fees on behalf of its employees to the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.
Mr Gatto insisted the debt would be paid before the deadline, but did not explain the delay. "It's all been sorted - we've agreed to a payment plan. We all have debts. We pay them, we pay everyone," he said.
"Things are tough for the construction industry. We're just one of the [companies] that's doing it tough right now."
Mr Gatto denied any knowledge of problems between Elite and the union. "I've had nothing to do with Elite for 12 or 18 months. I haven't had a wage out of the joint for a year," he said.
It is the latest in a series of financial setbacks for the underworld identity, who was issued with a $10 million tax bill last November, forced to lay off staff at the crane company over other "tax issues", and saw the Bentleigh offices of a debt collection agency he co-owned catch fire in suspicious circumstances.
Mr Gatto said it would probably be a "couple of years" before the tax matters would be resolved with the Australian Tax Office.
Mr Tomas did not return calls from Fairfax Media. In 2003, Mr Tomas was the subject of an alleged murder plot that led to charges against Tommy Ivanovic, also known as "Little Tommy".
Philip Newman, of PCI Partners, which is handling the administration of APAC Cranes, refused to comment on the nature of the debt owed by Elite Cranes.