Aussie gangsters’ shock move to dodge extradition

 

NSW Police had assembled one of its largest ever contingents of arrest officers to ever deploy overseas to collect two Sydney gangsters allegedly involved in trafficking almost three tonnes of drugs to Australia.

But in the last hours, of the last day, of the last month legally available to the pair currently behind bars in Dubai, they stunningly thwarted the move lodging an extraditions appeal that is now likely to prolong their case for months.

Benjamin Neil Pitt and Matthew John Battah were arrested in a high profile operation by heavily armed Dubai SWAT police officers in June, in co-ordination with the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police on arrest warrants related to conspiring to import a commercial quantity of drugs.

It was the culmination of a seven-year NSW police operation to smash a national network of money laundering, criminal operators and the trafficking of at least four drug hauls worth $1.5 billion.

 

Benjamin Neil Pitt, who was arrested in Dubai. Picture: Dubai Police
Benjamin Neil Pitt, who was arrested in Dubai. Picture: Dubai Police

 

John Battah was also arrested. Picture: Dubai Police
John Battah was also arrested. Picture: Dubai Police

 

They lost their UAE court bid to be extradited to Australia in August and plans were already underway to bring them back from as early as this weekend with the time limit to launch an appeal set to lapse last night.

But with hours to spare a legal challenge was launched.

"We don't know what happens now," one source close to the case said last night. "This has happened literally in the last 24 hours. We are confident the appeal won't get up but how long that process will take in their (United Arab Emirates) equivalent Supreme Court is not known."

The grounds for the appeal are not clear.

 

Benjamin Neil Pitt and Matthew John Battah were arrested in a high profile operation by heavily armed Dubai SWAT police officers in June. Picture: Dubai Police
Benjamin Neil Pitt and Matthew John Battah were arrested in a high profile operation by heavily armed Dubai SWAT police officers in June. Picture: Dubai Police

 

Another officer involved in the case said it was always suspected the pair would fight "tooth and nail" to avoid coming back to Australia where they would face numerous charges related to the import of a commercial quantity of drugs.

"We just have to make sure we follow the processes to get people back here the right way, you can circumvent anything, that doesn't work in our favour. Dubai have been great in terms of how they have assisted … they don't want to be seen as a haven for organised crime … they even made a video of the arrest, it's like a trailer for a movie."

He described the operation to bring them back as "enormous" including one of the largest teams NSW Police had dispatched for an arrest and extradition; News Corp Australia will not reveal those details for security reasons.

 

Police make an arrest in Sydney related to Strike Force Millstream investigations, which was established to investigate the large-scale supply of prohibited drugs. Picture: NSW Police
Police make an arrest in Sydney related to Strike Force Millstream investigations, which was established to investigate the large-scale supply of prohibited drugs. Picture: NSW Police

 

The pair, who have not been charged, left Australia in 2015 and lived lavish lifestyles overseas as NSW Police detectives from Strike Force Millstream tracked them travelling between the UAE and Europe including on holidays with family and friends.

They are allegedly linked to Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Lone Wolf and its president Erkan Keskin, also wanted for questioning by NSW and Queensland police and believed to be living in Turkey.

They are the last people allegedly involved in a huge drug smuggling operation that since 2013 had dispatched tonnes of drugs to Australia in shipping containers from the Netherlands and Germany. The pair's specific role in the enterprise was not clear but police have described them as allegedly being king pins at the top of a pyramid conspiracy to traffic narcotics and dealing with proceeds of crime in the tens of millions of dollars.

 

Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Dubai Police Commander-in-Chief. Picture: Dubai Police
Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri, Dubai Police Commander-in-Chief. Picture: Dubai Police

 

When the pair was arrested they were about to leave UAE prompting an Interpol "Red Notice" calling for an arrest to be made at "zero hour". Dubai dispatched heavily armed police in what Police Commander in Chief Lt General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri described as an example of top international co-operation that showed UAE's forces maintained strong, active, and vital communication channels with the world's police agencies and contributed to the world's safety and security.

Dubai police made a three-minute video compilation of the arrest to highlight recent arrests of foreigners being sent back to their homelands.

Originally published as Aussie gangsters' shock move to dodge extradition


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