Strike Force Kenton
This matter involved 2 importations.
Importation 1 – Joumana HIJAZI, Hassan FAKIH & Mohammad KAZAN
On 26 April 2011 a FedEx package arrived in Australia from China. The package was addressed to a fictitious person residing at a premises previously owned and lived in by the Hijazis. In the days following the arrival of the package in Australia, Hijazi spoke with another person on the phone and sent SMS messages in relation to the arrival of the package. During these communications Hijazi used 2 mobile phones, both of which had been registered using false details. Hijazi was told that “one was about to arrive at our old house”, and was provided with the name and tracking number. He also confirmed that $21,000 was sent to China as payment for the consignment. Hijazi also spoke with her son in relation to the package on at least 2 occasions.
On 29 April 2011 Hijazi’s son told her that the package needed to be collected that day and that ‘Housana’ should collect it. Housana is a nickname for Hijazi’s 18 year old nephew Fakih. Hijazi, in an attempt to avoid detection, agreed and recruited Fakih to collect the package from FedEx. She was to pay him a sum of money for this job.
Fakih spoke with this 17 year old friend, Kazan, about collecting the package. They discussed wearing a disguise to the FedEx to avoid being detected and Kazan agreed to assist in order to make some money.
At about 6pm on 29 April 2011, Kazan parked a vehicle approximately 50m from the FedEx depot and remained in the driver’s seat whilst Fakih exited the vehicle and entered the FedEx building.
Whilst inside the FedEx Depot Fakih received a call from Hijazi in which she asked him whether he had the package and if everything was ok, to which Fakih responded that he almost had it and was waiting. Fakih presented his own identification to the FedEx officer and was provided with the package.
Fakih was arrested by Police immediately upon leaving the FedEx depot. He told police, “The package it’s not mine, it’s my aunties”. Kazan was simultaneously arrested in his vehicle.
The consignment was conveyed to Redfern Police Station and its deconstruction video recorded. Inside the package was a taped box containing a ‘Ho Tai’ Digital Calender. Upon opening the digital calendar 2 small black metal tins were located glued to the frame inside. The tins had been glued together and each contained a heat sealed plastic bag containing a white powder. The gross weight of the white powder totalled 248.55g gross.
Samples of the substance in each of the tins were analysed and found to contain a total of approximately 160.6g of pure cocaine.
Hijazi frantically tried to contact Fakih in the hours following his arrest, sending numerous SMS messages and phoning him. She recruited her daughter to drive to the FedEx depot to see why there had been a delay. She called Hamzi Hijazi in Lebanon and told him that Fakih and Kazan had been at FedEx and they were late coming home and that she was worried because it was dangerous and she would be “killed by their parents”. Hamzi Hijazi told her not to say anything because “they won’t talk”.
Importation 2 – Ibrahim ASSOUD
On 27 April 2011, Ibrahim Assoud arrived in Australia by air. On the same day a call was intercepted between Joumana Hijazi (Hijazi) and Hamzi Hijazi in which she told him that ‘Ibrahim’ had come past and had given her something.
At about 8.31pm on 27 April 2011 during a telephone call between Hijazi and Hamzi Hijazi, Hijazi put Assoud on the line and he and Hamzi Hijazi discussed the package. Hamzi Hijazi told him, it’s very long and it’s from Lebanon.
On 30 April 2011 a FedEx package arrived in Sydney from Lebanon. The package was addressed to a fictitious name at an address which is the address of a pawn broker’s shop, a business previously owned by Hijazi.
On 3 May 2011 the NSW Police obtained and executed a search warrant at the FedEx depot. During the execution of the search warrant the consignment was seized. It was a large package wrapped in cardboard and sticky taped together, approximately 2m tall and 50cm wide. The item was taken to Mascot Police Station where its deconstruction was videotaped.
Inside the package was an electronic message board wrapped in bubble wrap. The message board had a black metal frame and a Perspex front. The rear of the board was cracked. When the top of the frame was removed, 14 taped packages that had been concealed behind the frame were revealed. Each item was removed and weighed individually. An examination of each of the individual 14 packages revealed that they contained a compressed white powdery substance which tested positive to cocaine. In total, the 14 packages from the consignment contained a total of 1.267kg of pure cocaine.
At about 11.00am on Wednesday 4 May 2011, Assoud attended the FedEx depot to collect the package. He identified himself as ‘Abraham’ and provided the tracking number. He was told that the package had been put back on a van for another delivery attempt and he would have to return later that day to collect it. Assoud left a mobile number which is registered in his wife’s name.
At about 4.40pm on 4 May 2011, Assoud returned to the FedEx depot to collect the package. He produced identification in his own name. He was told again that the package was not ready to be collected and was arrested immediately upon departing the FedEx depot.
The defendants pleaded guilty to the following offences:
Hijazi: 1 count of importing a marketable quantity of a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, pursuant to section 307.2(1) of the Criminal Code
Fakih: 1 count of possession of a marketable quantity of a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, that is reasonably suspected of having been unlawfully imported pursuant to section 307.9(1) of the Criminal Code
Kazan: 1 count of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the commission of an offence by Hassan Fakih against section 307.9(1) of the Criminal Code, namely the possession by Fakih of a marketable quantity of a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, that is reasonably suspected of having been unlawfully imported contrary to sections 307.9(1) and 11.2(1) of the Criminal Code
Assoud: 1 count of attempt to possess a marketable quantity of a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, that is reasonably suspected of having been unlawfully imported contrary to sections 307.9(1) and 11.1(1) of the Criminal Code
Hijazi, Fakih and Kazan were all first time offenders with no criminal histories. All received a 25% discount for their pleas of guilty in the Local Court. The Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 (NSW) applied to Kazan’s sentencing proceedings because he was under 18 years at the time of the offence and under 21 at the time of sentencing. The court accepted that Hijazi committed the offence out of fear of her husband, Hamzi Hijazi. Assoud received a 25% discount on sentence for pleading guilty in the Local Court. This was his first sentence of imprisonment.
The Court sentenced the defendants to the following:
Hijazi: 5 years imprisonment to be released after 2½ years on condition that she be of good behaviour for 2½ years
Fakih: 3 years imprisonment to be released after serving 12 months on condition that he be of good behaviour for 2 years
Kazan: 18 months imprisonment to be released forthwith on condition that he be of good behaviour for 18 months
Assoud: 6½ years imprisonment with a non-parole period of 3½ years.