Australian Civil Liberties Union

Don't turn a blind eye to terror in our midst
Tim Priest, Quadrant, 12 January 2004

The emergence of Middle Eastern crime groups was first observed in NSW in the mid 1990s. Before then, they had been known largely for individual acts of antisocial behaviour and for loose family structures involved in heroin importation and supply as well as motor vehicle theft and conversion.

The one crime that did appear organised before this period was insurance fraud, usually motor vehicle accidents and arson. Because these crimes were largely victimless, they were dealt with by insurance companies and police involvement was limited.

But from these insurance scams, a generation of young criminals emerged to engage in more sophisticated crimes - among them extortion, armed robbery, organised narcotics importation and supply, gun running, organised factory and warehouse break-ins, and car theft and conversion on a vast scale, including the exporting of stolen luxury vehicles to Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries.

It probably took 20 years for the Chinese to become a dominant force in crime in Sydney. But Middle Eastern crime has taken less than 10 years. So pervasive is Middle Eastern influence on organised crime in Sydney that rival ethnic groups, with the exception of the Asian gangs, have been squeezed out or rendered extinct. The only other crime group to have survived intact are the bikies - although they have now legitimised many of their operations and now make as much money through legal means as they do illegally.

With no organised-crime experience, no gang unit other than the South-East Asian Strike Force, the NSW Police turned against every convention known to Western policing in dealing with organised crime groups. In effect, the Lebanese crime gangs were handed the keys to the city of Sydney.

The most influential of the Middle Eastern crime groups are the Muslim males of Telopea Street, Bankstown, in southwest Sydney. The Telopea Street Boys and their associates have been involved in numerous murders over the past five years - many of them unprovoked attacks on young Australian men for no other reason than the ethnicity of the victims.

They have been involved in all manner of crime on a scale we have never before seen or even contemplated. Ram raids on expensive brand stores in the city are endemic. The theft of expensive motor vehicles known as car-jacking is increasing at an alarming rate. This crime involves gangs of Lebanese or Pacific Islander males finding a luxury motor vehicle parked outside a restaurant or hotel and watching until the occupants return to drive home. The car is followed, the victims assaulted at gunpoint and the vehicle stolen. The vehicles are always worth about $100,000 or more, and it is believed they are taken to warehouses before being shipped interstate or overseas to the Middle East.

The extent to which Middle Eastern crime gangs have moved into the drug market is breathtaking. They are now the main suppliers of cocaine in Sydney and are developing markets in southeastern Queensland and Victoria. They are leading suppliers of heroin in and around the inner city, southwest Sydney and western Sydney.

But what sets the Middle Eastern gangs apart from all other gangs is their propensity to use violence at any time and for any reason. Unlike their Vietnamese counterparts, Middle Eastern crime gangs roam the city and are not confined to Cabramatta or Chinatown. And even more alarming is that the violence is directed mainly against young Australian men and women. It is plain that violent attacks on our young men and women are racial as well as criminal.

Quite often when taking statements from young men attacked by groups of Lebanese males around Darling Harbour, a common theme that emerges is that the violence is racially motivated: the victims are attacked simply because they are Australian.

I wonder whether the inventors of the racial hatred laws introduced during the golden years of multiculturalism ever contemplated the possibility that we, the silent majority, would be the target of racial violence and hatred. I don't remember any race-based charges being laid in conjunction with the gang rapes of southwestern Sydney in 2001, where race was clearly an issue and racial slurs were used to humiliate the victims.

Unbelievably, a publicly funded document produced by the Anti-Discrimination Board, titled The Race for Headlines, was then circulated. It sought to not only cover up race as a motive for the rapes but to criticise any accurate reporting on this matter in the media as racially biased. It worries many operational police that organisations such as the ADB, the Privacy Commission and the Council for Civil Liberties have become unaccountable and push agendas that don't represent the values that this great country was built on.

Many have heard of the horrific problems in France with an unprecedented outbreak of crimes among an estimated 5 million Muslim immigrants. Middle Eastern males now make up 45,000 of the 90,000 inmates in French prisons. There are no-go areas in Paris for police and citizens alike. The rule of law has broken down so badly that when police went to one of these areas recently to round up three Islamic terrorists, they went in armoured vehicles, with heavy weaponry and more than 1,000 armed officers - just to arrest a few suspects.

Why did they need such numbers? Because the threat of terrorist reprisal was minimal compared to the anticipated revolt by thousands of Middle Eastern and North African residents, who have no respect for the rule of law in France and consider intrusions by police and other authorities a declaration of war.

The problems in Paris's Muslim communities are being replicated in Sydney at an alarming rate. Paris has seen an explosion of rapes committed by Middle Eastern males against French women in the past 15 years. The rapes are almost identical to those in Sydney. The rapes are committed not only for sexual gratification: there are also deep racial undertones, along with threats of violence and retribution.

What is more alarming is the identical reaction among some sections of the media and criminologists in France: they downplay the race factor and even gang up on those who try to draw attention to the widening gulf between Middle Eastern youths and the rest of French society.

That is what we are seeing in Australia. The usual suspects come out of their institutions and libraries to downplay and even cover up the growing problem of Middle Eastern crime. Why? Because these same social engineers have attempted to redefine our society. They have experimented with all manner of institutions - from prisons to mental institutions and, recently, policing.

Some of the problems we now see with policing are the result of former NSW police commissioner Peter Ryan's dream of restructuring and retraining the force. The police academy was changed from a training college into a university teaching social sciences and very little else. Constantly, I'd see young police officers emerge from the academy with a view that as police officers they were counsellors, psychologists, marriage guidance experts, social workers and advocates for social change, but with almost no skills in street policing. Their training endangered not only them but also their workmates and the community.

Never mind that policing is about enforcing the rule of law. It's never been about analysing each offender for the root causes of crime. The police enforce the law and protect the community regardless of race, colour or religion. What we have seen in southwest Sydney is ethnic communities being policed selectively. The implications for this are frightening when you look at Paris. The French practised selective policing of a particular community, which is subsequently now out of control.

In February 2001, when I appeared before an inquiry into Cabramatta's crime problem, I gave evidence which at the time attracted the usual claque of ratbags from the ABC and their associates at The Sydney Morning Herald, as well as Sydney's Radio 2UE broadcaster Mike Carlton. I said that Sydney is going to be torn apart by gang warfare the likes of which we have never seen. Last year I was finally proved right, but I take no comfort from that. However, the criticism I received was unprecedented. I was a nutter, a liar, a racist, a disgruntled detective.

Of course, the critics still refuse to concede that we have a problem. They are still clinging to the multicultural theme. To highlight the problems with Middle Eastern communities in Sydney is to tear down the multicultural facade.

The amount of money spent on the multicultural industry beggars belief. It is a lucrative position for many. Governments pour huge money into anything that includes the word multicultural. Indeed, the police department, like other government departments, spends vast amounts on multicultural issues, jobs, education packages, legal advice, public relations and the rest. Having expended large amounts of money on multiculturalism, they are hardly likely to criticise it. Those that feed off multiculturalism are almost certainly not likely to question it.

That groups of Middle Eastern males can roam a city and assault, rob and intimidate at will can no longer be denied or excused. You need only to look at Paris and other European countries that have had mass immigration from Middle Eastern countries to see the sort of problems we can look forward to in years to come. My prediction is that within 10 years Middle Eastern crime groups will have spread and their influence will extend across Australia as they seek to expand their enterprises. There will be no-go areas in southwest Sydney just like there are in Paris.

Only recently I have seen quotes from senior police and retired police who claim that race is not the issue in organised crime. Those statements are stupid and dangerous. Organised crime groups, with the exception of the bikies, are almost always ethnically based - any experienced detective will tell you that. Barring one or two local beach gangs, the days of Anglo-Saxon gangs are all but over.

I also predict that there will be a dramatic rise in gang shootings as rival gangs compete for turf and business. This will be done with almost complete disregard for police attention, as they are aware that the NSW Police Service has to be rebuilt from the ground floor. In the past three years we have seen the phenomenon of drive-by shootings, Los Angeles style. Not only are the increasing incidents a serious cause of concern, but even more so is the use of automatic weapons that spray hundreds of rounds at their targets. This is virtually unprecedented in Australia.

Indeed, the issue has become so serious that some of these Middle Eastern youth who are engaged in organised crime, and who have no regard for our values and way of life, may go a step further and engage in terrorist acts against Australia. The ingredients are there already. It is but a small step from urban terrorism to religious and political terrorism, as we have seen with groups such as the Irish Republican Army, with organised crime often being confused with terrorism.

I don't want to paint a story of doom and gloom. But, as a former policeman, I've seen the destruction that gangs can wreak on innocent citizens who want nothing more than to live in peace. I just hope we can trust the people in government and the police to ensure that we don't lose the values and the rights we have received from past generations.


Tim Priest was a Sydney detective until 2002.

A longer version of this article appears in the January-February issue of Quadrant 2004.


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