Gang rapist caught in ‘ice’ ring sting
Convicted teenage gang rapist Mohamed Ghanem is facing 20 years in jail after becoming an methamphetamine dealer less than two years after his release on parole.
Unfortunately for Ghanem, now aged 35, his ice drug deals were conducted under police surveillance and on recorded police telephone intercepts.
Using luxury car brands and mileage as code words for drugs, Ghanem and his co-accused Hussein Sarhan set up drug deals with another man, Kamal El Jamal, in Sydney's western suburbs.
Ghanem pleaded guilty to supplying a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug and is due to be sentenced later this month. Sarhan and El Jama are also due to be sentenced..
The drug plotters were finally arrested after a dramatic police pursuit in traffic with the surveillance operation culminating in officers finding almost 1kg of ice hidden in a car boot.
In October 2002, Ghanem was convicted of raping young Sydney women in the infamous Skaf gang rape trial which shocked Australia. The attacks were so degrading and demeaning, the trial judge at the time described them as "worse than murder".
Then 19-year-old Ghanem was labelled at the trial as the "enthusiastic lieutenant" of Bilal Skaf, who with his brother Mohammed and at least six other young Lebanese Australian men, gang raped young women just before the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Ghanem was originally sentenced to 40 years with a minimum non-parole period of 26 years for his role in the gang rapes but was granted a retrial in 2004 and released on parole in December 2015.
Less than two years later, in October, 2017, Queensland and NSW Police formed a joint strike force to investigate Ghanem and a Brisbane businessman, Hussein Sarhan, 49.
They intercepted phone calls in Arabic and text messages in English between the two in which the make of cars referred to methamphetamine and the mileage was the price.
On the evening of November 3, 2017, Sarhan contacted Ghanem and talked about "problems with types of tyres," according to court documents seen by news.com.au.
After some discussion about "one hundred ten" or "one hundred twenty", Ghanem asked Sarhan if he wants "the BMW or the Mercedes. The Mercedes right?".
According to court papers, Sarhan replies: "The Mercedes, the Mercedes whose type is that same light grey, nice."
Two days later, Ghanem phones Sarhan and talks about how many cars at "one hundred and twenty kilometres" Sarhan has.
In another phone call, Sarhan says he needs "green cars" and they agree to meet at a hotel.
On November 26, oblivious to police surveillance Sarhan leaves Queensland with his wife and daughter in his BMW and arrives at Bankstown Motel 10, where Ghanem has booked him a room.
Also under surveillance, Ghanem leaves his Greenacre home at 8.31pm in his mother's car to drive the eight minutes to the Yagoona house of Kamal El Jamal.
Undercover police watch cars coming and going from the house and El Jamal talking with different male persons in the street.
The following morning, Ghanem meets Sarhan at the Bankstown Motel 10, both leave and Ghanem sets up a meeting with El Jamal and they arrive in the early afternoon back at the motel.
Sarhan arrives back and El Jamal gets a yellow plastic bag from his boot, the three men disappear for nine minutes and then Ghanem emerges with the yellow bag.
At 2.20pm on November 27, 2017, a police highway patrol car displaying its light and sirens motions to Sarhan in his black BMW with wife and daughter in the car to pull over.
One unmarked police car stops in front of the BMW and another slows on the right of Sarhan's driver's side. Sarhan accelerates harshly, colliding with the rear of the car in front and the side of the car on his right.
He continues forcing his vehicle and the two police cars across three lanes of traffic and into a concrete median barrier.
More police vehicles arrive, but Sarhan continues accelerating, blocking all northbound lanes, until finally he is stopped, handcuffed and his wife and daughter are removed from the car.
Sarhan denies drugs are in the BMW, but says a black sports bag in the boot belongs to Mohamed Ghanem which he is taking to Brisbane for him.
Inside the sports bag is a smaller blue bag containing a knotted plastic bag with a large quantity of a white crystalline substance.
When police ask if it is ice, Sarhan denied knowing what ice is.
At 4pm on the same day, Mohamed Ghanem drives the short trip from home to his sister's house where police stop him and he is taken in and charged.
Analysis of the crystalline substance found in Sarhan's boot identifies it as 999.3 grams of 80 per cent pure methylamphetamine.
Two fingerprints on the plastic bag of the meth are identified as Kamal El Jamal's, who was charged along with Sarhan and Mohamed Ghanem with supplying a commercial quantity of ice.
Ghanem was arrested near his family home in Greenacre, where he was living when he was arrested and later convicted of raping young women as part of the Skaf gang rapes.
On August 10, 2000, a week after a 14-year-old girl had fallen victim to the gang,
two schoolgirls, 17 and 18, were late-night shopping at Chatswood Mall in Sydney.
Eight men including Bilal Skaf approached the girls, who believed they were going for a marijuana smoke before being dropped home, and persuaded them to get into a white van.
In the back of the van, where there were no seats, Bilal Skaf sat with the girls.
Four men followed in another vehicle to Northcote Park, well-known to both Ghanem and the Skaf brothers and lying roughly half way between their family homes.
The two girls were pack raped in Northcote Park, with Ghanem's role in the rapes earning him a maximum 40 year sentence before it was reduced on appeal.
After being released from jail in October 2015 - after spending 14 years in prison - Ghanem returned to live in the family home he had grown up in, within minutes walking distance of the Skaf brothers.
It is not suggested that the families of Ghanem or those of his drug ring cohorts were aware of methamphetamine dealing perpetrated by the men.
Both Ghanem and the Skafs were the sons of hardworking Lebanese immigrants who had bought houses in Greenacre.