Five men arrested in Dubai in connection with an international multi-million dollar drug trafficking ring are facing extradition to Australia.
A multi-national police operation to crack open a notorious crime syndicate with links in the UAE, Australia and the Netherlands took place overnight on Monday.
Police in Dubai arrested the five in connection with the shipping of more than 1.9 tonnes of narcotics with an estimated street value of AUS$810 million (Dh2.4 billion) destined for the streets of Australia.
One of those arrested is understood to be Koder Jomaa, named as the owner of The Fit Kitchen, a healthy-eating restaurant in Jumeirah Lakes Towers.
The other men arrested in the UAE have been named in Australia as Mustapha Dib, Stephen Elmir and brothers Michael and Fadi Ibrahim, who were the subject of a TV crime series in Sydney called Underbelly.
The Ibrahim brothers were picked up by local officers and those from the Australian Federal Police and Middle East Organised Crime Squad alongside Dib shortly after leaving a Dubai restaurant.
They face allegations the syndicate worked closely to arrange, purchase and facilitate the importation of drugs across a number of cargo container shipments between November 2016 and August 2017.
The year-long pursuit was hailed a success by police, and a shining example of how effective cross-border partnerships can be in the fight against international crime.
The Ministry of Justice, Dubai Public Prosecution and Dubai Police were singled out for praise in helping conduct the UAE operation swiftly and effectively.
“A united response from law enforcement and partner agencies in Australia and overseas is critical to our efforts to dismantle organised criminal networks,” said Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan.
“The people we allege are part of this syndicate are Middle Eastern organised crime figures that are well-known to law enforcement, and for decades this group has flaunted their wealth and activities, telling the community they were untouchable. Today, it should be obvious that they are not.
“This result could not have been achieved without the comprehensive and ongoing support of our partners in the UAE and The Netherlands. Because of their work, we are able to bring these people to account.”
Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police, added: “The relationship among these countries is solid, especially when it comes to the fight against drug traffickers.
“As per the directives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to keep our community safe, Dubai Police exert massive effort to keep the community safe.”
Staff at The Fit Kitchen restaurant in JLT, owned by Mr Jomaa, were unaware of his arrest or alleged criminal connections.
“Mr Jomaa comes in to see us regularly as he uses a gym nearby,” said a manager working in the kitchen there.
“He likes to check on the business from time to time but we don’t know anything about his arrest.
“Everything is normal here and we are carrying on. We have not been told any different.”
Read more: The ongoing war on drugs
Mr Jomaa is understood to be a regular at a nearby gym in Almas Tower.
Staff at Fidelity Fitness Club said they were aware of him as a gym user but had not seen him “for a few days”.
Australian officials will now try to get those arrested in Dubai extradited to face charges in Sydney.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade consular officials are aware of the arrest of several Australian men in Dubai,” said a department spokesman.
“Like any Australian arrested overseas, the men are being offered consular assistance in accordance with the Consular Services Charter.
“Owing to privacy obligations, we will not provide further comment.”
Named Operation Veyda, the sting saw 30 search warrants executed across Sydney by the AFP and New South Wales Police, with raids recovering significant hauls of drugs and firearms.
Police made 17 arrests in total, including the five in Dubai and two in the Netherlands.
Another Ibrahim brother, John, had his luxury Sydney sea-view property raided by police, although he has insisted he is a reformed character.
The brothers were known as Kings of the Cross, after the nightlife centre of Kings Cross in Sydney, where the Ibrahims ran scores of clubs and bars.
John Ibrahim was the inspiration for TV crime series Underbelly: The Golden Mile, featuring the story of notorious families in Sydney and the constant police efforts to bring them to justice.