Police have issued an arrest warrant and charges for a Melbourne man living in Lebanon who has been implicated in a massive money laundering syndicate allegedly linked to the Notorious Crime Family.
Samir Chaarani, who claimed last month to be stranded in Lebanon due to health problems, has been charged by Victoria Police with four counts of dealing with the suspected proceeds of crime. The charges relate to handling money or property valued between $100,000 and more than $10 million.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Samir Chaarani.
“Detectives from the Echo Taskforce have issued a charge and warrant for a 59-year-old Reservoir man as part of a significant investigation into a large-scale Middle Eastern organised crime syndicate,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.
“At this time police believe the man remains offshore.”
Chaarani’s lawyer, Peter Ash, refused to comment when contacted by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday.
Chaarani has previously told The Age and Herald he strenuously denies any accusations he was involved in any criminal activity with convicted drug trafficker and murderer George Marrogi, boss of the Notorious Crime Family.
Chaarani said he did not flee Australia but was living in Lebanon while seeking medical treatment. He said he planned to return to Australia in February before he was charged.
Chaarani, a property developer and financier, said he was approached to invest funds from a charity called Nurturing Christian Families and had no idea there was any connection to Marrogi.
The 59-year-old claims he was unaware of Marrogi’s involvement until Marrogi threatened him on a phone call from prison.
Marrogi exploited a weakness in the prison’s phone system to make secret phone calls to his girlfriend and alleged co-conspirator Antonietta Mannella, and coordinated the importation of large shipments of drugs.
The Notorious Crime Family was dismantled by Victoria Police’s anti-bikie Echo Taskforce following a two-year investigation into the syndicate’s involvement in large-scale drug importation, money laundering and firearms. Marrogi had been running the gang from inside Barwon Prison.
As The Age and Herald revealed last month, Chaarani allegedly brokered a deal to funnel the network’s illicit drug profits into an Islamic-based private investment scheme run by community leader and preacher Ahmad Ayad.
Ayad, who has been charged with proceeds of crime offences along with numerous other family members and associates, facilitates property development projects that allow religious community members to invest for profit without violating the Koran’s prohibition on interest.
Chaarani’s previous business interests have included property development, a cafe and a taxi service.
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