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Friday, April 9, 2010

Middle Eastern crime connections In Sydney

Here is the original article.

I HAVE a particular affection for my Australian friends of Middle Eastern background - they seem imbued with a special generosity and zest for life. Their good humour and decency is itself a contradiction to the proposition that there is some racial base to all that crime and violence carried out in their name.

Ten years ago Vietnamese Australians had a similar reputation, and before them Italians.

It is an old story.

The new story in Sydney is the blood trail in the past decade and more spelling out names such as Karam, Assoum, Sande and Chehade.

Sydney has Australia's largest proportion of Middle Eastern-born residents, but in a city of more than four million people they still number only about 120,000. Undeniably the community is disproportionately represented in criminal activity.

You only need to go to the jails to see what NSW prison's officers have come to call their "Gaza Strip".

Inmates of Middle Eastern background are crowding most areas of serious crime. According to Corrective Services Commissioner Ron Woodham, the numbers continue to grow, as do management difficulties. Woodham says they are particularly adept at corrupting his officers.

CHRIS MASTERS' SPECIAL REPORTS - Why Sydney's hitmen are deadlier; The cycle of real sinners; Joh Ibrahim under fire

The next example of disproportion is the number of police assigned to the specialist Middle Eastern Crime Squad. It is the largest in the NSW Police, with up to 120 personnel.

Most of Sydney's Middle Eastern-born residents come from Lebanon, drawn from successive waves of migration - but, as is often pointed out, the trouble is less with these citizens as with their sons and grandsons.

Chief Superintendent Ken McKay, the straight-talking Director of State Crime Command, has made a lot of arrests and, he says, in three years not one of them was a foreign national.

An Arabic cultural expert who advises police and prefers not to be named links most of the crime to a third wave of migration between 1978 and 1982 - fallout from a vicious civil war.

Chris Masters' blog on the state of Australian crime

While the generalisation has its limits, many of these newcomers had not regarded Australia as a first choice, seeing the move as temporary. As a result there was less of an effort to assimilate and learn the language.

They settled, as migrants do, in areas where they could find familiar faces, replicating family and village structures in suburbs like Punchbowl and Auburn.

While earlier waves of refugees, better-educated and eager to embrace a new life, had prospered, many in this newer cohort saw a different horizon.

They were inclined to mark time. Life moved on, children were born and it soon became clear there was little to go back to.

By then their children were adolescents who had assumed uncommon power. They were the ones to fill out the forms and help mum with the banking. They became a disconnected subculture, a product of a collision of history and geography.

When I worked on a Four Corners investigation into organised car theft I was introduced to this generation. Many were skilled backyard mechanics. Back in Lebanon there is a massive industry in rebuilding cars.

In Beirut, a young man explained, there was little opportunity for schooling and plenty of time to learn how to reconstruct Toyota Landcruisers from an Aladdin's Cave of parts sourced from as far afield as Australia.

By the 1990s southwest Sydney had become an automotive Bermuda Triangle. Large families from small communities helped form gangs that stole to order.

When George Elfar fled to Jordan in 1991 he remained in contact with son Andrew, who helped continue the business. Some members of the Elhassan family were also caught riveted to an industrial-strength scam.

A BMW carjacked in William St was one of many vehicles traced through a jumble of parts found in a container bound for Lebanon. It soon became clear how Brian Elhassan, a celebrity on the show car circuit, could afford to gold-plate the wheels of his Subaru WRX.

Last year 18 members from two more groups formed around some members of two families. It was alleged in court they were rebirthing vehicles, using parts stolen to order.

Police have identified more family-based operations believed to be doing the same. While auto crime is a speciality, as with many ethnic crime groups there is energetic diversification. And as usual drugs are the main attraction.

After Bill Bayeh was busted for heroin and cocaine supply in the late 1990s there was a rush to succeed the deposed king. Danny Karam and Michael Kanaan stepped up, then fell out. Karam was shot dead. Kanaan joined Bayeh in jail.

Further west, there was a long-running feud, with tit-for-tat shootings early this decade started by rivals Adnan "Eddie" Darwiche and Bilal Razzak.

Police made 1100 arrests and laid 2400 charges in the space of one year as they tried to stop the ensuing war.

The question is often asked - where does religion fit? Deb Wallace, the head of the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, says police make no record of religious background when arrests are made.

As she and other officers see it, religious faith has no bearing other than to further reflect migration patterns. Earlier mobsters like the Bayehs were Christian Lebanese. Many of the later pretenders are Muslim. The Karam/Kanaan mob were a mix of both Christian and Muslim.

If religion does figure at all it seems to do so more after they are locked up and find what is sometimes called "prislam".

Bassam Hamzy, a murderer and Islam convert, has been able to exercise considerable influence in jail, accruing a following among Aboriginal inmates.

The gang, Brothers for Life, has been linked to Hamzy, with members tattooing his name prominently on arms and legs. After he was allegedly discovered running a lucrative drugs business from inside via mobile phone, Hamzy was moved to Goulburn's Supermax. Managing the more radical prisoners convicted of criminal offences can be more testing than managing inmates convicted of terrorism offences.

In general, doing jail for many of the Middle Eastern Australian prisoners is harder than anticipated. The younger ones, given to posturing on the streets, find that a cellblock is the wrong place to feign toughness.

When, in 1998, Aboriginal and Middle Eastern prisoners at Lithgow fought for domination of the "buy ups", or weekly purchases, the latter group fared so poorly there was a later retaliatory shooting up of Eveleigh St, Redfern.

A senior prison official told me how quickly former King of the Cross Bill Bayeh was reduced when stood over by Pacific Islander inmates. It can also be lonely, as their former brothers in arms do not visit often. A move to a country jail can be additional punishment.

Ken Mackay has seen many crims come and go. The brash young hoods from the southwest of Sydney and the like do not impress. "They tell on one another. They would give up their own mother." They are overheard bringing themselves undone by boasting and one-upmanship on the phone.

Jungle law follows a predictable pattern: the more noisy and ignorant, the narrower the criminal lifespan.

Ten years ago young Vietnamese Australian hoods were similarly ripping and tearing. We now hear little of them, even though the evidence suggests some of the quieter and more efficient have grown to become very big players.

I would like to say this particular crime wave will, like so many others, soon recede. But that is unlikely.

Jails breed a kind of barbed wire psychosis, organising young men into crime networks such as the Muslim Brotherhood Movement.

Recruitment into outlaw motorcycle gangs has altered the accent, let alone character, of the bikie movement.

Worst of all, there is a widespread belief within this community that they are being persecuted by law enforcement. This marginalisation serves to increase the pain for all of us.

By Chris Masters

The reporter fails to draw conclusion from the (Muslim) immigrant crime waves in Europe, they have had the same problem, and from what I know, have not abated at all, if not increased. This is just a testament to the failed multicultural orgy Australian government's immigration policy has brought. When you combine religion, immigration from a war torn or an oppressive country, youth, and feeling disfranchised within the new culture, what do you get?

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