Alleged Australian drug gangsters arrested on the streets of Dubai could face months behind bars before they are extradited to face justice in their home country, lawyers have said.
Five men were arrested late Monday night in a joint sting operation between international law enforcement and Dubai Police as part of an alleged plot to smuggle 1.8 tonnes of drugs into Australia.
Police are now investigating what links the men had here, and if any of their assets in the country were obtained with illicit funds.
Emirati lawyer Yousuf Al Bahar said the men could face a long wait behind bars in Dubai before their case is heard.
“Investigators will have to look at what crimes, if any, have been committed here in the UAE before these men are considered for extradition,” he said.
“There will have to be a court judgement made here, 100 per cent. It will take time, as they will have to check on the background of the men, and what they have been doing in Dubai.
“It is a long procedure, and could take two to three months to see if any charges need to be brought here.”
The haul of MDMA, cocaine and crystal meth seized by authorities in the Netherlands was said to have a street value of AUS$810 million (Dh2.4 billion).
Operation Veyda, as it was named, was led by Australian Federal Police, with assistance from UAE authorities and the American Drug Enforcement Agency.
“If there are businesses or assets here in the UAE that are related to drugs and the investigation, they can be lost,” Mr Al Bahar said.
“Everything related to any criminal activity and drugs can be blocked.
“This is an international case but Dubai authorities will be heavily involved in this.”
The men are understood to have been arrested shortly after dining out in an unnamed Dubai Marina restaurant.
Meanwhile, the Australian Joint Organised Crime Group (JOCG) were raiding homes across Sydney, where they seized 80kg of cocaine, $2.7 million in cash and various firearms.
It’s not the first time international gangland activity has spilled out into the tourist hotspot of Dubai Marina.
In May last year, a Turkish man was shot seven times in his car in what was thought to be a revenge killing.
A source at Dubai’s public prosecutor’s office said the attorney general was hoping to fast-track some of the Australian men’s extradition from Dubai.
In such cases, the procedure is to hand suspects over if their crimes did not happen in Dubai, or in any part of the UAE.
Prosecutors are yet to receive any instruction regarding this particular case. If that changes, an investigation must be carried out to determine if the suspects committed crime here. If not, they will be handed over to Australian authorities.
A decision on extradition will be made by a senior official at Dubai’s attorney general office.
One of those arrested and now facing trafficking allegations is Koder Jomaa, an Australian of Middle Eastern descent, listed as the owner of the Fit Food Kitchen in Jumeirah Lakes Towers.
He was one of the five arrested in Dubai by the police anti-narcotics department, assisted by AFP and New South Wales Police Force detectives.
Jomaa, 47, could face extradition in relation to alleged drug importation offences, while his brothers Ali and Abbas were among eight others arrested by police in Sydney over their alleged role in the smuggling ring.
The gang also stands accused of smuggling 50 million cigarettes into Australia and being actively engaged in global money laundering.
An internal investigation is also under way at Australian Border Force following claims the gang had customs officials working for them.
AFP coordinator of organised crime and cyber, detective superintendent Stephen Dametto, said the operation required an unheralded degree of collaboration due to the global reach of organised crime in Australia.
“This operation is a warning to organised crime targeting Australia that hiding on the other side of the world won’t save you,” he said.
“Once you are in our sights, we will focus our efforts on causing you and your predatory criminal activities as much damage as possible.
“AFP’s international network has enabled investigators to work closely with our partners in the UAE to destroy this syndicate. Without their help, we would not have been able to achieve the results we have to arrest the top players in this syndicate.”