Melbourne 'drug trafficker' on bail set for deportation to Iraq

DateSeptember 2, 2015 - 10:53AM
Nino Bucci, Cameron Houston, Tammy Mills

Assets seized as part of Operation Grote. Photo: Victoria Police

An alleged major drug trafficker with links to an outlaw bikie gang faces deportation by the Abbott Government to Iraq.

It is believed the man was not a dual citizen, and had been living in Australia on a refugee or humanitarian visa.

It is expected he will remain in Australia until the completion of his trial, but be deported regardless of the outcome.

Operation Grote dismantles alleged international drug syndicate with raids across Melbourne in December, 2014. Supplied: Victoria Police Photo: Supplied: Victoria Police

The man was arrested and taken to immigration detention on the same day Fairfax Media reported he had been caught on telephone intercepts discussing debt collection and a possible hit with a gang member who was in prison.

The Corrections Victoria intelligence unit recordings reveal the man – who cannot be named – discussing the maiming or killing of someone who is in debt to multimillionaire drug kingpin Mohammed Oueida, a jailed member of the Comanchero.

On Tuesday, he was arrested without his lawyer being informed, and spent last night in immigration detention.

Operation Grote dismantled an alleged international drug syndicate with raids across Melbourne in December 2014. Photo: Victoria Police

The alleged drug trafficker, an associate of the Mongols, was charged with federal offences last December, after police seized heroin and ecstasy worth an estimated $6 million as part of Operation Grote. The man's luxury Lamborghini and personalised Harley Davidson were also seized.

Lawyer Theo Magazis, who acts for the man, said on Tuesday night that moving to deport someone who was on bail could be contempt of court. Mr Magazis was not aware the man had been arrested.

When Fairfax Media contacted Victoria Police last week to discuss the intercept material, they declined to comment.

A member of the Mongols Motorcycle club, Australia. Photo: Simon Alekna

The man, an Iraqi refugee who was born in the southern city of Basra, has lived in Australia since 1998. He arrived as a teenager and is now aged in his 30s.

His family were Shiite Muslims who experienced significant trauma during and after the first Gulf War, a court has previously heard.

His family lived in refugee camps in Syria and Jordan before arriving in Australia.

They returned to Iraq in 2005, but the man stayed behind. It is unclear where his family live, but the situation in their native southern Iraq is far less volatile then in the north, where Islamic State are fighting to control large swathes of territory.

Shiites from southern Iraq are among those who have travelled to the north of the country to battle Islamic State.

The man has a significant criminal record, but a court has previously heard that his "turbulent and traumatic early history", including seeing mutilated bodies during the war and regular interruptions to his education, had been a factor.

The man could not be contacted on Tuesday, but said to Fairfax Media on Monday that he had not been involved in debt collecting or planning a hit, as suggested on the telephone intercepts.

He said he was responsible for caring for his family and hoped a report about the intercepts would not jeopardise his bail.

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton gained increased power to deport criminals when changes to the Migration Act came into law in December.

Fairfax Media reported in June
that Mr Dutton has the power to cancel the visas of suspected or convicted criminals, and that a list made by Victoria Police after high-level discussions contains the names of dozens of criminals who could be deported under the new laws, regardless of whether they have been charged with a criminal offence.

There had been 47 visa cancellations in Victoria from December to April 30, including offenders who were deported for murder or manslaughter, drug offences and sexual offences.

Mr Dutton's office declined to comment on individual cases.

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