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A luxury apartment block in Dubai, Sunrise Bay Tower 1, has been dubbed the Melrose Place of international drug trafficking suspects. Some of its unit owners, including members of the Comanchero outlaw bikie gang and others facing drug trafficking charges in Australian courts, have been accused of smuggling illicit drugs into Australia on an unprecedented scale. The leaked Dubai property data obtained by investigative journalists reveals the presence of high-profile figures such as Australian Hells Angels boss Angelo Pandeli and his close associate, Mohamed Bousaleh, who are among Australia’s most influential drug traffickers.

Dubai’s property market has become a hotspot for criminals and corrupt individuals from around the world, hosting figures like Irish crime boss Daniel Kinahan and Belgian cocaine kingpin Othman El Ballouti. Not only drug traffickers but also corrupt political and corporate figures find refuge in Dubai, leveraging its lax regulations on real estate purchases and money transfers to facilitate their illegal activities. The Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission have been working tirelessly to combat the harm caused by Dubai’s criminal expatriate community, leading to the arrests and deportation of some suspects.

Despite increasing scrutiny and crackdowns on money laundering in Dubai, the city remains a safe haven for suspected crime bosses like Angelo Pandeli, who continue to operate with relative impunity. The leaked property records reveal how individuals involved in illegal activities are drawn to Dubai for its welcoming attitude towards foreign money, regardless of its source. The UAE’s extradition treaties and efforts to combat corruption are often overshadowed by political considerations, allowing high-profile fugitives like Amit Gupta to evade justice while accumulating vast personal fortunes.

John Coyne, head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s strategic policing and law enforcement program, warns that Dubai’s lenient regulations make it a hub for organised crime groups to conduct business deals and launder money, shielded from the violence and drug trade prevalent in other countries. Experts point out the need for a major overhaul of Australia’s organised crime policy and efforts to combat the flow of dirty money to offshore locations like Dubai. While Labour’s proposed anti-money laundering reforms may help, more comprehensive measures are needed to address the root causes of the escalating drug trafficking and money laundering activities.

Former law enforcement officials advocate for a reassessment of Australia’s drug policy, suggesting that the current prohibition approach is ineffective and contributing to the worsening drug problem in the country. They emphasize the need for harm-minimization policies and a shift in the societal perspective on drugs to address the underlying issues driving the illicit drug trade. The revelations from the Dubai property data leak underscore the challenges faced by Australian authorities in combatting organised crime and money laundering, calling for a more proactive and comprehensive approach to tackle the root causes of these criminal activities.

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