Accused drug kingpin jailed

A judge has jailed multimillionaire accused drug kingpin Mohammed Oueida for at least five and a half years for drug trafficking.

County Court judge Liz Gaynor said Oueida had played a major role in a large-scale drug manufacturing and trafficking operation to help fund his lavish, flamboyant lifestyle.

But the judge said she accepted that Oueida had committed the crimes when under pressure to pay money to two notorious crime families in Melbourne - the Kheirs and the Haddaras.

Oueida had been part of a "posse" with Fadi Haddara, Nasser Kheir and Mahmoud Kheir to rescue a kidnap victim being tortured in a house north of Melbourne in November 2009. Oueida and both Kheirs were wounded during the gun battle which erupted at the Coolaroo house.

As a result, Oueida claimed the Kheirs and Haddaras blamed him for what happened and demanded money to pay their legal fees after they had been charged over the shootout.

Judge Gaynor said Oueida had been forced to pay $250,000 to Nasser Kheir, hand over his chicken shop and butcher shop to the Kheirs and pay many thousands of dollars to the Haddaras.

The judge said there was a dispute over the role Oueida had played in the drug trafficking operation, with police claiming he was the drugs boss who had organised everything, but his defence lawyer claimed Oueida only became involved to pay off the Kheirs and Haddaras.

Judge Gaynor accepted Oueida had profited handsomely from the drug trafficking but had also been under pressure to pay off the Kheirs and Haddaras.

When Oueida was arrested in April last year, police claimed he was living in a $2.8 million mansion with an eight-hole golf course, a swimming pool, tennis court and wine cellar, and had a Hummer, a Ferrari , a light plane, and $6 million in a Swiss bank account.

Oueida, 36, pleaded guilty to trafficking and manufacturing methamphetamines, dealing in the proceeds of crime, and possessing an unregistered semi-automatic rifle.

Judge Gaynor said she accepted that without Oueida's "participation and organisation, the enterprise would not have been as successful and profitable as it was".

She jailed Oueida for a total of eight and a half years with a non-parole period of five and a half years.

The Australian Federal Police had described Oueida at an earlier court hearing as the "head of an organised crime syndicate involved in large-scale manufacture and trafficking of narcotics".

An investigation involving the Australian Crime Commission, Victoria Police, the AFP and Customs had been set up in March 2010 targeting Oueida and included the use of telephone intercepts, listening devices, surveillance and an undercover police operative.

Oueida met with the undercover officer in August 2010 and handed him a shopping bag containing 10,053 pink pills stamped with an "M" logo.

He wanted $6.50 for each pill, which had a 25 per cent purity of methorphan (used in the manufacture of ecstasy).

Oueida, who was paid $65,000 by the undercover officer for the drugs, claimed the pills had the same effects as ecstasy.

On another occasion, the undercover officer met Oueida at a cafe in Lonsdale Street and handed him a bag containing $80,000 cash. Oueida had been sitting with a man he introduced as his lawyer.

The undercover officer ended up paying another $235,000 on top of the initial $65,000 to Oueida for drugs. The money paid by police was never recovered.

The prosecutor said Oueida would make regular trips to a clandestine drug laboratory outside Melbourne, "travelling in his Ferrari and flying... in a light plane he had purchased in about May 2010".

When police raided Oueida's Greenvale property on April 7 last year, they found a loaded semi-automatic rifle, a loaded .357 Magnum revolver, and a shooter's vest.

There were two boxes of ammunition containing 100 bullets found in a rubbish bin in the kitchen, $7000 in cash in a safe in the wine cellar, a set of Harley-Davidson keys, a Ferrari key, and a Lexus.

This story Accused drug kingpin jailed first appeared on The Age.