Victoria Police's recruitment of a gangland lawyer to report on their clients will be scrutinised by a $7.5 million royal commission.
The convictions of Pasquale Barbaro, 57, and Melbourne gangland figures like Tony Mokbel could be in doubt after revelations that a defence barrister provided information to police.
Barbaro was convicted over what was described as the “world’s largest drug bust” in 2012.
A 4.4-tonne haul of ecstasy (MDMA), 15 million tablets, was hidden in tomato tins in a container ship which arrived in Australia from Italy.
Barbaro was sentenced to life in jail on the charge of conspiracy to traffic MDMA.
The lawyer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, represented many clients linked to Victoria's violent gangland era and the Director of Public Prosecutions has already written to 20 people about their convictions.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was quick to reassure confidence in the state's police force.
"There are some very serious issues as they relate to the management of informants, or shall I say the mismanagement of informants, and potential impacts upon the safety or the integrity of criminal convictions," Mr Andrews told reporters.
The inquiry will start in early next year, probably with both public and private hearings.
The number of convictions impacted will be established by July, with a mid-year interim report and the commission's work will be completed by December, Mr Andrews said.
"I'm not particularly impressed to have to deal with these issues, they are significant issues, but they need to be dealt with properly," the premier added.
On Tuesday, Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said the government was looking outside the state for two people to run the royal commission.
“We're currently engaged in conversations with people outside the state of Victoria to be able to come and to be able to adjudicate," she told the ABC.