A Melbourne gangland lawyer who was gunned down outside his ice cream parlour apparently had a bounty on his head that had been increased to A$500,000 before his death.

Joseph "Pino" Acquaro's body was found on a footpath in East Brunswick by a rubbish-truck driver about 2.30am local time on Tuesday.

The 55-year-old was gunned down in an apparent professional hit as he walked to his car after closing the Gelobar cafe about 12.40am, police say.

The killer remains on the run and police want to speak to any witnesses who heard shots or a car travelling fast the wrong way up the one-way street where Acquaro's body was found.


The homicide squad is waiting for an autopsy report to confirm how many times Acquaro was shot, or what type of gun was used.

Acquaro was known to police but not as a convicted person, police say.

The father-of-three had strong ties within the Calabrian community and had been president of Melbourne's Italian Chamber of Commerce and the Reggio Calabria Club.

He was also a criminal lawyer who had represented a raft of prominent gangland figures in Victoria.

Court documents show there was a A$200,000 contract on his head, and he had been warned by police his life was in danger.

The Herald Sun reports this bounty was increased to A$500,000 in recent months.

Acquaro was aware of the threat against him but was not worried, the newspaper reported today.

"I'm isolated. They can't physically harm me," he told the newspaper recently.

"I'm not afraid of dying." The lawyer had taken over the popular gelateria and cafe on Lygon Street about five years ago.

Gelobar was damaged in a suspicious fire in January.