The elaborate undercover string which brought down drug trafficker Moustafa ‘Michael’ Ibrahim has finally been revealed, days after he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Ibrahim, 42, pleaded guilty to importing drugs after being caught by the sting in Dubai in 2017, after befriending a mystery man known as ‘Zane’.
Zane was in fact an undercover Australian Federal Police operative, who had secretly infiltrated Ibrahim’s closest circle of confidantes and won his trust.
So close were the pair that Ibrahim once told said he would ‘always vouch’ for Zane ‘like I’ve known you all my life.’
But within just ten months of meeting his new friend, Ibrahim was arrested in Dubai after stepping off a cruise during ‘a big night out’.
The undercover exercise blew the lid on three bids to smuggle MDMA, cocaine and ice into Australia.
Moustafa ‘Michael’ Ibrahim (pictured, right, with wife Caitlan Hall, left), is the brother of Kings Cross identity John
On Wednesday, Ibrahim was sentenced to 30 years in jail with a non-parole period of 18 years.
The sting began with a birthday present in October 2016, when Zane attended the birthday party of Sydney real estate agent Ryan Watsford at the Sheraton Hotel.
Zane gave Watsford two cartons of cigarettes as a gift, and advice on ways to launder money internationally.
The officer had been given a special permit to be involved in the sale of smuggled tobacco to infiltrate the group.
They were suspected of smuggling across Australia, Dubai and the Nertherlands.
The group were arrested during a night out in Dubai’s Marina (pictured), having just come ashore from a cruise
Watsford took the bait and became interested in how Zane got the cigarettes, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, so offered to put him in touch with some buyers.
Within a month, Zane had been introduced to Ibrahim – who is the brother of Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim.
The former nightclub owner has not been accused of any offences, or any connection related to these crimes.
His brother soon became fast friends with Zane, bringing him further into his group of confidantes, including convicted drug baron Mostafa Dib, Ahmad ‘Rock’ Ahmad and Hassan Fakhreddine.
The criminal gang used encrypted Blackberry phones to buy millions of dollars worth of cigarettes smuggled into Australia from abroad, with the help of Zane.
Michael (pictured, left) is seen with his mother Wahiba (front) and brothers John (back) and Fadi (right). It is not suggested any of his family members had any knowledge of his crime
But it quickly turned to more illicit substances, documents presented in court said.
In March 2017, Ibrahim asked his new friend Zane ‘whether he would be interested in purchasing MDMA from a third party,’ to which the officer agreed.
Between May and July that year, the officer arranged for nearly two tonnes of drugs to be collected in Europe, telling Ibrahim it had been successful.
In fact, the drugs were eventually seized by Dutch police, with it always being a ‘sham arrangement’.
The gang were finally arrested on August 7 that year in Dubai, after getting off a cruise at tourist spot the Marina.
Five men, including Ibrahim and Dib, were arrested by UAE police.
Zane had previously messaged Ibrahim that evening, promising a ‘big night in Dubai with everyone bro’.
His lawyer told the court that he had been setup by the undercover officer, who offered him ‘a door’ to get drugs into Australia, but this was dismissed by Judge Dina Yehia.
Moustafa ‘Michael’ Ibrahim (pictured) pleaded guilty to eight charges relating to illegal drug and tobacco importing
On a number of occasions Ibrahim said he didn’t want anything to do with drugs, only cigarettes.
Judge Yehia said while there was ‘simply no evidence’ Ibrahim was involved in smuggling tobacco or drug activity before he met the officer.
But, she added that he was a ‘willing participant’ when the ideas were floated his way.
‘However, once the opportunity was presented, the offender embraced it,’ she said, saying he was motivated by money.
He was quoted as saying: ‘I’ll move anything you want… be your f***king right-hand man.
‘We’re not petty c**ts. We’re gonna make millions… even hundreds of millions.’
The court heard the 41-year-old (pictured) was involved in two syndicates which attempted to import 1797 kilograms of MDMA, 136kg of cocaine and 15kg of ice into the country
Ibrahim has spent 14 years in jail since 2002.
This includes convictions for assault, drug supply and the manslaughter of Robin Nassour in 2006.
He is first eligible for parole on August 7 2035.
The court heard the 41-year-old was involved in two syndicates which attempted to import 1797 kilograms of MDMA, 136kg of cocaine and 15kg of ice into the country.
Dib, arrested alongside Ibrahim in Dubai, was sentenced to a maximum of 18 years and two months in prison over the plot.
Ahmad also pleaded guilty, as did Fakhreddine, who were both arrested in Sydney.
Watsford, also arrested in Sydney, was sentenced to a maximum eight years and six months in jail in November 2019.
Ibrahim (pictured) was arrested in Dubai in 2017 and – along with several other members of the group – subsequently pleaded guilty
Crown prosecutor Lincoln Crowley QC described Ibrahim as the ‘glue’ and a ‘linchpin’ who brought together the syndicates and the overseas criminal gangs they were attempting to purchase drugs from.
‘The issue of entrapment – there is no basis for discount, disregarding or diminishing the objective seriousness of the offender’s acts,’ Mr Crowley said.
The prosecutor argued it defied common sense to suggest the mere presence of the importation ‘door’ by Zane allowed Ibrahim and his group to suddenly forge contacts with overseas organised criminal networks.
‘This is not a case where an offender has been brought in as an unwary innocent to the commission of offences which he would not have been otherwise inclined to commit,’ Mr Crowley said.