Police believe they’ve put a major dent in a family-led Middle Eastern crime gang allegedly involved in trafficking drugs and guns in Melbourne.
The alleged ringleaders are in custody on weapons and drugs charges including 36-year-old Fadi Haddara, who a court heard was the main target of a massive pre-dawn police operation.
A total of 27 people were arrested after 700 police swept through 45 properties in Melbourne’s north and west on Tuesday.
The raids targeted a “well known” Middle Eastern family-based syndicate allegedly involved in trafficking firearms and commercial quantities of drugs, Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana said.
The syndicate has a history of trafficking firearms and commercial amounts of drugs and police say the bust has given it “a pretty good dent”.
“There’s always someone that’ll try to move in afterwards and fill the void but we’ve certainly taken out the significant ringleaders,” Mr Fontana told reporters.
More than 35,000 tobacco plants and what is believed to be a high-powered assault weapon were seized in the raids, which police said disrupted the workings of the gang linked to the Haddara family and its associates.
Fadi Haddara, of Altona North, is facing 17 charges including trafficking a commercial quantity of methylampthetamine.
Ziad Haddara, 39, of Truganina, remains in custody on five charges, also including drug trafficking, before a bail application on Wednesday.
The two Haddaras are among seven people who remain in custody after appearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, including 29-year-old Melton South woman Aysun Hanay who allegedly had methylamphetamine in her freezer when police arrested her.
During Hanay’s unsuccessful bail application, Detective Senior Constable Leonie Klein said Fadi Haddara was the main target of the operation.
Mr Fontana said the raids were high risk but no one was injured.
Stolen vehicles, a clandestine laboratory, 100kg of dried cannabis and firearms were also uncovered by police.
“The drugs were significant but we were particularly concerned about the firearms,” Mr Fontana said.
Another seven people were charged by police and bailed.
The raids were part of work by the Santiago Taskforce. It was set up in 2008 to target Middle Eastern crime rings, including shootings involving a number of families and their associates.