Underbelly boss in bid for freedom
THE alleged Sydney drugs cartel boss Vaso Ulic has offered the Montenegro High Court a surety of more than $470,000 as he seeks bail to fight charges he ran a multimillion-dollar ecstasy trafficking business to both east and west coasts of Australia.
The 59-year-old has been languishing in jail since his spectacular arrest in the Balkan nation capital Podgorica a year ago this month following an Australian Federal Police operation that pursued him across the globe for more than a decade.
The AFP allege he ran one of the world's largest drugs cartels pushing drugs about Australia since his days on the Golden Mile of Kings Cross in the 1980s but he is just being prosecuted on two counts of trafficking between July 2007 and May 2008.
The charges relate to two plots and seizures of trafficking MDMA via cargo ship to Fremantle and Botany Bay in Sydney.
The Australian Government described his arrest as a "hammer blow" to organised crime in Australia while AFP Organised Crime manager Commander Bruce Hill said: "We can categorically, without any doubt, say he is one of the kingpins if not the kingpin of bringing drugs to Australia and it's not limited to ecstasy, he does cocaine, he does meth, it's a compilation and then the money laundering aspect that goes with that so he's a very sophisticated high-level crime figure."
Since Albanian-born Ulic migrated to Sydney in 1979, he moved in the same circles as old-school crims Bill Bayeh, George Freeman and George Savas but outlived them to move on with an Australian syndicate who had been operating out of Dubai, a Manly syndicate but also significantly Outlaw Motorcycle gang Bandidos and Melbourne's notorious Mafia underbelly.
Ulic's trial, based on a Special State Prosecutor's Office (SDT) indictment, has been delayed several times and his lawyers have applied many times for bail but this time offering 300,000 euros (AUD$474,000).
They emphatically dent the charges against their client and in their latest bail application say it was based on confusion of an Australian criminal case that did not involved him.
That case was that of martial arts expert Fabian Quaid and John Kizon for a drugs shipment to Fremantle which involved well known business leaders and sporting personalities and for which they were jailed.
The SDT has reiterated its case in fighting bail that their case is strong and based on: "reports on the application of secret surveillance measures, transcripts of intercepted telephone conversations, information collected by exchanges and co-operation with the police and the competent judicial authorities of Australia … records on the application of controlled delivery measures, records of house search and seizure, reports on drug expertization, and other evidence, there is a reasonable suspicion that the defendant VU committed the criminal offence he was charged.
A decision on bail is expected within days.
On the power point presentation prepared by agents from the Australian Federal Police for colleagues is what appears to be a large bird's nest jumble of scrawls and scribbles.
Its showing at high level operational briefings is initially met with some mirth, then it is brought into focus and reveals itself to be a highly detailed illustration of the world's leading Balkan crime figures and their reach into the Australian crime milieu.
To suggest the ultimate in criminal family trees is extensive would be an understatement.
In a nutshell, the highly classified piece of artwork effectively knits together 40 years of the nation's criminal milieu still operating today and behind more than half of the country's high level criminal enterprise from murder, drugs, guns, standover extortion and money laundering to list but a few.
There is one name however from which stems the most tentacles - Vaso Ulic - a former bit player in the "Golden Mile" of Kings Cross who somehow graduated to allegedly lead a criminal empire that stretches across the world allegedly centring on large-scale shipments of cocaine and other illicit substances and money laundering.
A man with attuned taste in quality Barossa Valley reds, of which he demands be matured in French oak barrels only, educated, smart and a disciplined individual who with a phone call can allegedly shift $5 million to a friend and now deemed one of the most accomplished drug barons from Australia.
In his early day at the Cross it was mostly about controlling drugs, gambling and turf wars with the Chinese gangs, now the AFP say its international drug shipments worth hundreds of millions of dollars controlled from his fortress-like home outside Podgorica, the capital of the former Yugoslavia state of Montenegro.
He has been linked to at least nine murders including the attempted assassination of a federal political leader in the Balkans.
On the Golden Mile Ulic, an ethnic Albanian-Australian, was a close friend and associate of Bill Bayeh but he knew them all - Freeman, Savvas, the list can go on.
In 1979 he was a small time bag man then but joined the mile attracted by the scent of power which included corrupt police on the payroll. That was the first year NSW Police opened an intelligence file on him.
The file grew throughout the notorious Sydney gangland wars of the 1980s and by the 1990s he was named in the NSW Wood Royal Commission into police corruption as a major heroin dealer.
In 1992 Ulic was linked to string of corrupt police including members from the NSW Police Major Crime Squad and the Drug Enforcement Agency who he paid for information either with cash or TAB tickets worth up to $3000 a piece.
At one stage Ulic was driving to Sydney airport allegedly to spirit $200,000 out of the country when he was stopped by corrupt police near the Rockdale railway, dragged him out of the car and pushed him up against the fence to the tracks threatening to put him on the tracks when they couldn't find the money on him.
He had apparently been tipped off by other equally corrupt police that other officers were planning to rob him.
Police would place a bug on his phone and a day later he would never again use the phone, tipped off by other police. It was all too easy.
A year later in June 1993 he was suspected in being involved in the execution style murder of Europa Sio, a Kings Cross bouncer found shot twice in the head who apparently owed Ulic a gambling debt.
Undercover police had Ulic under surveillance about Edensor Park in Sydney's West when they were unexpectedly called off; years later it was alleged corrupt police had tipped Ulic off and been rewarded with significant moneys.
Ulic flew to Europe spending some time in Italy while back in Sydney a brief including surveillance photos prepared for Interpol to have Ulic on their watch list was misplaced by police and was never filed to overseas authorities. In late 1995 another NSW Police taskforce was created to probe police corruption and Kings Cross gangland deaths corrupt officers may have tainted and the then 35-year-old Ulic was found in Germany and extradited back to Sydney.
The charge of murder against him however was later dropped. Ulic remained in Australia for a while - where he had run a Manly-based property group and owned a string of properties including an apartment at the then Star City Casino in Darling Harbour and properties in Queensland bought with moneys laundered through Asia - but also returned to former Yugoslavia.
In 2000 Ulic was named as a "crucial witness" to the attempted assassination of Serbian Opposition leader Vuk Draskovic shot twice in the head as he watched television in his home in Montenegro.
Ulic's lawyers revealed he was in Italy and unavailable for questioning.
Police have for years also hoped Ulic could help them with information about the death of millionaire car dealer Bob Ljubic, whose body was found in Botany Bay in March 2005, and Franco Mayer shot dead in Guilford in 2004.
In November 2004 Ulic was also the target of the Australian Crime Commission's Task Force Schumacher tasked with investigating 160kg of ecstasy worth about $50 million, hidden in a consignment of furniture from Belgium and seized in Sydney by Australian Customs.
The deal was suspected of being set up by Ulic now living in Rome who had already been receiving significant payments via Western Union money transfer for suspected importations and distribution by some members of Outlaw Motorcycle Group (OMG) including Coffin Cheaters and The Finks who ran drugs across the country.
According to AFP intelligence, Ulic left Australia in 2005 and has never returned.
Police familiar with his file say he can be summed up in three words - "smart, stable and dangerous" and linked in some form to nine contracted killings.
He is "feared" by the wider criminal milieu and has been subject to numerous AFP probes in NSW and Western Australia for large-scale drug imports including Operation Interstice looking at 44kg MDMA on-board cargo ship MSC Monica docked in Fremantle in 2008.
His network is vast and linked to numerous drugs successful or not so successful across Europe particularly the UK and the Netherlands as well as Australia, South Africa, Colombia and Mexico.
He was linked to 210kg of MDMA that was supposedly sent to Sydney and his close ties particularly with the Bandidos motorcycle group.
His criminal world came together in 2011 when authorities noted he was doing the impossible, strategically uniting the "clans" of the former Yugoslav states.
Since 2002 he had established ties with the Italian mafia but linking the Balkan criminal cartels elevated him as an alleged major supplier for drugs in Europe and control of global distribution.