MORE than 100 guns that were illegally imported into Sydney through the mail five years ago remain unaccounted for and “could be anywhere” on the streets of Australia.
It’s all thanks to three men who managed to smuggle more than 130 “Glocks” — a brand of semiautomatic pistol — into Australia through an ingeniously brazen plot through customs and Australia Post.
Ever since their arrest in 2012, the three men have never given a statement to police.
Just 24 of the illegal guns, sold on the black market for a price tag of between $10,000-$20,000, have been located by authorities as Four Corners reporter Ben Knight warns “it’s not just Sydneysiders” that should be worried.
Tonight’s Four Corners looks at how the guns were imported into Australia.
“The black market in guns exists across the country,” Knight told news.com.au.
“They [police] only find these guns as they turn up, whether they’re raiding a meth lab or through received intelligence. It’s impossible to know [where they are], the point is they could be anywhere.”
According to the Daily Telegraph, police seized the smuggled Glocks from various locations in NSW early on in the investigation.
The three men responsible were a crime syndicate who had managed to quietly and calmy outwit authorities; no-one before had managed to smuggle so many guns into Australia since the 1980s.
“Police say they were arrogant to the end and thought they were untouchable,” Knight said.
“It had worked for a good few months. All the shipments they ordered made it through customs undetected.”
The guns, designed in Austria, are meant for law enforcement officers, but now they lie in the hands of Sydney’s biggest underworld figures.
In three months in 2013, there were 25 shooting incidents across Sydney.
Since, Knight says the gun spree has spread south, with Melbourne seeing a rise in crime not seen since the early 2000s.
“At the time, Sydney was in the grip of an outbreak of driveby shootings, fortunately that’s subsided but if you look at Melbourne, the number of gun homicides is back to what is was in the Underbelly wars.”
“Gun shot injuries are also up, one of the senior Victorian police we spoke to says we’re seeing more and more low level criminals carrying firearms — and that didn’t used to be the case.
“Now it seems to be more like the norm, they’re using the weapons to intimidate.”
The international gun importation syndicate found its way to a small post office in the Sydney suburb of Sylvania Waters from Europe. These guns would be used in numerous drive-bys across Sydney.
One would be used to shoot the aunt of Australian gangster Bassam Hamzy through the door of her home.
Another, according to the Daily Telegraph, was found by a plumber hidden in a gym bag under a house.
Authorities in Australia and Germany would eventually discover the intricate operation that would involve importing the guns using false documents from Austria, via Germany.
Andrew Botros Botros was the licensee and operator of the post office when the syndicate allegedly began importing parts for 118 Glock semiautomatic pistols and 220 magazines.
The second man, Ahmed Karnib’s role was “undertaking activities to evade detection”.
The ringleader of the operation was former Optus supervisor Khoder El Ali, who was jailed for a minimum 13 years last month.
El Ali made contact with a German gun dealer posing as a security trader using a fake import permit.
Shipments made it undetected past customs (at the time components were harder to detect in x-ray machines) and were subsequently delivered to the Australia Post office in Sylvania Waters. Knight said the parcels “didn’t sit the profile” of a typical illegal package at the time.
Detective Superintendent Ken Finch, from the NSW Police organised crime squad, told ABC’s 7:30 at the time: “The allegation we would make is those handguns were bought by a dealer in Germany, who onsold them to another smaller dealer and as a result of an approach by criminal syndicate in Australia, that dealer was selling the handguns onto the criminal syndicate in Sydney.
“The further our investigation went, the more sophisticated it appears the syndicate were in their methods.”
El Ali would ask the gun dealer to break the gun down into separate components and put them into separate shipments. Once they made it to Sylvania Waters they would be reassembled and sold.
“This was on the false pretext that it was a rule of Australian customs that no complete pistols could be imported into Australia,” Knight explained.
“He also instructed the gun dealer to label packages with innocuous descriptions, such as metal frames or plastic parts, because there was a lot of theft on Australian ports and he didn’t want the packages to go missing, The gun dealer accepted this.”
Detective Sergeant Fab Furia of the NSW Police firearms squad said: “At first I believe he [the gun owner] thought it was a legitimate transaction but in time I think greed took over”.
Botros and Karnib pleaded guilty to state and federal firearm offences but are now back on the street after serving backdated minimum jail terms of less than two years and four years. Senior law enforcement officials were left “stunned” by the verdict.
— Four Corners approached Andrew Botros’ lawyer, and Ahmed Karnib directly, but both declined to speak. Khoder El Ali has been in custody since his arrest.
- ‘Gun Runners’ on Four Corners airs tonight on the ABC at 8.30pm. For more information on tonight’s show, visit the Four Corners website.
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See the story: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/current-affairs/more-than-100-illegally-imported-guns-still-missing-in-australia-as-fears-grow-they-are-in-hands-of-underworld-figures/news-story/f1085f6f3b0d51452adc870258fadfef