Australia The man who allegedly brought down the house of Ibrahim

07:56  13 august  2017
07:56  13 august  2017 Source:   Sydney Morning Herald

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Police search John Ibrahim 's clifftop home in Dover Heights. Photo: Janie Barrett. John's son Daniel was charged with allegedly handing over a Nine months later, police were bursting into his brother's clifftop mansion, not only bringing down the front door but possibly the entire House of Ibrahim too.

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The proudest moment for Kings Cross nightclub tsar John Houssam Ibrahim came in 2000.

Rolling in cash and seemingly on top of the world, Ibrahim and his three brothers could finally pay their mother's way out of the fibro housing commission home in Sydney's west in which they'd grown up.

John, her second eldest, had bought her a spot two doors up from his clifftop mansion in Dover Heights, in Sydney's eastern suburbs. "Instead of being surprised or impressed, she's uncomfortable being so close to a cliff and all that wind, and hates being away from the Merrylands home she raised us in," Ibrahim reflected in his recently published autobiography, The King of the Cross.

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So he bought up the old fibro house, knocked it down and built her a two-storey, five-bedroom mansion in a fitting Ibrahim-style rags-to-riches transformation. The Merrylands property still stands, casting shadows over the brick cottages nearby.

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But the House of Ibrahim is in tatters this week following a dramatic operation across three continents that netted brothers Michael and Fadi, John's son Daniel, three of their cousins and 12 others allegedly involved in staggering drug importations.

The only brother not in custody now is John, perhaps the most notorious of them all, the subject of more than 540 police intelligence reports but just one conviction for a minor assault as a teenager.

The Ibrahim family migrated to Australia in the mid-1970s but their father disappeared back to Lebanon not long after to claim a second wife. When he returned, his relationship with his six children (four boys and two girls) was strained, and not helped by a gambling addiction.

From modest beginnings, his four boys grew up to achieve varying levels of infamy. The eldest, cocaine addict and former bikie boss Sam, once told the Wood Royal Commission his occupation was standing over and robbing drug dealers.

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Fadi was shot five times in his black Lamborghini outside his Castle Cove home in 2009 and had worked as a loan shark ever since.

And the youngest, John's favourite brother Michael, served six years in jail for stabbing a man to death in a dispute that originated over one group of men giving a rude gesture to the other.

John instead chose to build an empire on Sydney's "Golden Mile", owning or operating 40 nightclubs in a 16-year reign as the so-called "King of the Cross". He was once described as the "new lifeblood" of the area's drug trade but has strenuously denied the claim.

"The difference between all four Ibrahim boys is a puzzle to me," he mused in his book.

"Someone should do a study on us like a National Geographic nature versus nurture show. How can four boys grow up in the same house, eat the same food, live on top of each other and turn out so different?"

Dawn raids

At dawn on Tuesday, the Ibrahim family home was one of 30 raided across Sydney as more than 500 police carried out one of the largest organised crime stings ever conducted in Australia.

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John's Dover Heights home was turned upside down and eighteen arrests were made across Australia, the UAE and the Netherlands. Fadi, Michael Ibrahim and three major players in Sydney's underworld were picked up in late night raids in one of Dubai's luxury high-rise complexes.

John's son Daniel was charged with allegedly handing over a suitcase of $2.2 million. His model girlfriend and Kings Cross club owner Sarah Budge was charged over a loaded firearm.

John, who calls himself "Mr Legit", has denied any involvement and has not been charged.

The allegations centre around Michael who, out of prison for less than two years, allegedly started two-timing between rival Sydney drug syndicates, facilitating importations of 1.9 tonnes of MDMA, ice and cocaine using a business partner known as MW1.

According to a police statement of facts tendered in court, MW1, now a key police witness, imported drugs using what he called "the door", a scheme that was able to get goods into Australia without them being screened at ports.

Michael, 39, and MW1 allegedly took a 20 per cent cut from both syndicates, which they split 50/50.

The first syndicate reads like a who's who of Sydney's underworld.

Ahmad "Rock" Ahmad of the notorious Ahmad crime family; Mustapha "Fairy" Dib, a "Telopea Street boy" who ran amok in the '90s and was acquitted of murder last year' and convicted drug smuggler and gambling addict Hassan "Faks" Fakhreddine.

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The trio allegedly imported from Hakan "Little Huks" Arif, the right-hand-man to drug smuggler Hakan "Huks" Ayik, who skipped Australia in 2010 while on bail for heroin supply and has settled in Dubai.

Police allege Arif sourced drugs from the Netherlands through associate Nejmi Saki, 41, a Dutch-Turkish national living in Dubai and boss of a major European criminal syndicate.

The second syndicate was helmed by the Ahmad family's bitter and bloodied rivals, the Elmirs, namely Steven Elmir, who fled to Dubai last year after a shoot-out that killed his brother-in-law.

In November last year, Michael Ibrahim and Double Bay real estate agent Ryan Watsford, a close friend of John Ibrahim, started discussions with the first syndicate about utilising the "door" to import drugs into Australia. They planned an importation of pseudoephedrine from Lebanon but, after growing impatient at delays, shifted to importing 800 kilograms of MDMA from the Netherlands through Saki.

Thousands of messages were exchanged via BlackBerrys, the device of choice for organised criminals for its unbreakable military-grade encryption and closed-loop network.

Michael messaged under the usernames "Rakontur.88", "Entertainer88" and "H0llyw00d". Ahmad was "Narcosaint", Fakhreddine was "Blacknight", Watsford was "Barbiedoll", Arif was "Mr Billionaire" and "Babyface".

In a move that may not have been known by the first syndicate, Michael was also meeting with Elmir, or "Mr Worldwide", over a plan for the second syndicate to use "the door" to import 500 kilograms of MDMA and 20 kilograms of cocaine to the same Sydney market.

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May was a busy month for Michael. He flew to Dubai and met with Elmir and MW1 to discuss the 500-kilogram importation. A week later, back at nephew Daniel's house, he allegedly met with the first syndicate to hand over $1.12 million for MW1's share of a quarter of the 800-kilogram shipment.

It's also alleged Michael used his cousin, Nomads bikie boss Sleiman Tajjour, to supply more MDMA to MW1.

Tajjour's name has not been far from the headlines since he and Michael served time for the manslaughter of Fat Pizza comedian George Nassaur's brother Robin in 2006. Yet his alleged involvement appears to be confined to supplying samples of MDMA at his cousin's instruction. Leading criminal lawyer, Omar Juweinat, who represents Tajjour, said the case was built on "a series of assumptions, and unsafe ones". He said those assumptions will come at a high cost to his client and the other men, who are likely to spend more than two years on remand in maximum security prisons "waiting to learn their fate".

Likewise, Bellevue Hill businessman Jaron Chester, also arrested in this week's raids, appears to have been used to conduct Michael's dirty work. He allegedly laundered money for the men and, when he skimmed $30,000 off a $200,000 transaction to pay rent to his parents, was punished by having his head shaved and eyebrows plucked by Michael, who circulated a photo of it to his friends.

Investigation widens

However illegal drugs were seemingly not enough for Michael Ibrahim, police allege. Along with Watsford, he was simultaneously facilitating the importation of illegal cigarettes from Dubai, again using MW1's "door".

His cousin, cafe owner Fares Derbas, allegedly distributed the packets around Sydney in a truck.

For one shipment of 900,000 packets from Dubai, Ibrahim paid $1.8 million ($2 per packet) and on sold them for $7.2 million ($8 per packet).

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It seemed the allure of easy money was worth more than freedom for Michael and his associates. But it would ultimately be the flashy real estate agent, Watsford, who brought the two syndicates and the Ibrahim family undone.

It was Watsford who first introduced MW1 to the group and it was Watsford who police were first watching in March 2016. After seeing the cast of characters around him committing criminal activities, police dramatically widened their investigation.

Between June and August, Watsford was observed having several meetings with MW1 to seek advice on international money laundering methodologies and services provided by the man.

In a bizarre first transaction, he used MW1 to exchange 3,000,000 Russian roubles that he had unlawfully obtained into $56,000. It was a "great start to a fruitful relationship together," Watsford said.

At their next meeting at the Sheraton Hotel, MW1 let him in on a cigarette racket, to which Watsford said "I've got boys that will buy some of that."

Michael was introduced to MW1 at another Sheraton Hotel meeting a couple of months later. By then, the police were onto them. Listening devices, optical, tracking and data surveillance devices were being used. Officers were watching them, phones were tapped.

Nine months later, police were bursting into his brother's clifftop mansion, not only bringing down the front door but possibly the entire House of Ibrahim too.

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