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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Australia - Top fugitive nabbed in Cyprus

Nick McKenzie
AUTHORITIES have swooped on one of Australia's most wanted men - the alleged drug lord and Comanchero bikie gang financier Hakan Ayik - on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, ending his six months on the run.
The arrest of Ayik in Northern Cyprus paves the way for his possible extradition to Australia to face charges in connection with the nation's biggest, recent, organised crime probe, Operation Hoffman.
Two months ago, Ayik - wanted by New South Wales police and Interpol - narrowly evaded capture at the Greek-Turkish border after officials questioned him about a passport he was using.
Rumours swept the Melbourne and Sydney underworld that Ayik had fled the border police on a motorbike in a hail of bullets. But criminal sources say it was more likely he bribed border officials to let him go.
It is believed his recent arrest is in connection to alleged criminal offences flowing from this escape.
Ayik is a muscle-bound gym junkie considered by some police to be a figure who epitomises the modern gangster, using communication technology to evade detection.
It is believed he has been living off money stashed in foreign bank accounts - the proceeds of an international drug trafficking syndicate he is alleged to have set up.
Ayik's return to Australia to face drug-related charges is no certainty because Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus has no extradition treaty with Australia and Ayik also has dual Australian Turkish nationality.
A government source said the Attorney-General's department was expected to formally ask Turkish authorities to extradite Ayik, a process that could take months and be subject to legal challenge.
Ayik was the central target of Operation Hoffman, a landmark investigation led by the Australian Crime Commission and involving most of the nation's federal and state policing agencies.
Concluding earlier this year, Hoffman temporarily shut down the local end of an international drugs ring with links to the Comanchero outlaw motorcycle club, Chinese triads and corrupt police and prison guards.
The operation also exposed serious corruption on the nation's waterfront, with Ayik's syndicate allegedly forming ties with several maritime industry figures capable of sneaking drug-filled containers through Australian ports.
While a major success for the Australian Crime Commission, Operation Hoffman also sparked claims from former senior organised-crime investigators that policing agencies were struggling to combat a surging illegal drug-importation industry and that most imports were entering the country undetected.
The operation has led to the arrest of senior outlaw bikies, crippling the operations of the Comancheros as the gang attempted to move into the Victorian and West Australian drug markets from its Sydney stronghold.
A Chinese-based drug supplier linked to the Ayik syndicate, Man Kong ''Mark'' Ho, was recently arrested in Hong Kong at the request of the federal police.
Ayik is a long-time associate of the Comanchero club, and has been a friend since high school of the club's national president, Duax Hohepa ''Dax'' Ngakuru.
Ayik is well known for displaying his activities on his internet social networking sites including Facebook, earning him the moniker ''the Facebook gangster''.
While under investigation, he posted two travel videos on his Facebook site, including one that showed him meeting Mr Ho and Mr Ngakuru in Hong Kong. The video also depicted him driving expensive cars and partying with prostitutes.
At an organised-crime conference earlier this year, the chief executive of the ACC, John Lawler, said Ayik represents ''what we in law enforcement are facing''.
He said modern criminals, such as Ayik, are focused on amassing great wealth, are technologically savvy, highly mobile and difficult to track.