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NSW: Ringleader of drug syndicate operated from jail

By Belinda Cranston
04 Dec 2008 7:57 PM

SYDNEY, Dec 4 AAP - A convicted murderer allegedly made about 460 calls a day on a smuggled mobile phone as he coordinated a $250,000-a-week drug trafficking syndicate from his maximum security jail cell.

Bassam Hamzy, 29, who is serving a 21-year sentence for murdering a man outside a Sydney nightclub, allegedly made more than 19,000 calls from inside Lithgow prison, west of Sydney, between May 1 and June 11 this year.

Most of the calls were made in Arabic, to a syndicate of 12 close friends and family members who allegedly shifted $1.5 million worth of cocaine and ice from NSW to Victoria in six weeks.

Five of the principal players were arrested in Sydney and two others in Melbourne, during a series of dawn raids on Thursday that allegedly netted a loaded gun, a large amount of cash and thousands of pills.

Of those men, Khaled Hamzy, 56, Ghassan Amoun, 22, Thomas Miholic, 36, and Mohammad Abbas, 28, faced Burwood Local Court on drug possession and proceeds of crime offences, as well as one count each of participating in a criminal group. They were remanded and are due to return to court on February 11.

Police said Bassam Hamzy was expected to be charged on Friday with at least 15 serious drug and criminal group offences.

Hamzy is suing Corrective Services Commissioner Ron Woodham over being placed in isolation after allegedly hatching a plot to escape another top security prison early last year.

"I've got a message for this particular individual - if he thinks he has been isolated before and complained about it, wait till he sees what he's got tomorrow," Mr Woodham told Macquarie Radio on Thursday.

Police would not reveal how they learned of the contraband phone, but Mr Woodham said his department twigged after receiving a complaint from a member of the public the prisoner had allegedly threatened.

Only senior level corrective service officers were initially aware Hamzy's illicit phone calls were being monitored by police.

Other prison officers learned of the operation after viewing security footage of the phone being transferred to him.

Dental floss, or similar, was attached to a weight that was slid under Hamzy's cell door, allowing him to reel in the contraband phone each night, and send it back each day, Mr Woodham said.

He described Hamzy as a "very cool operator".

"The officers did search this particular person," he said.

"They had suspicion he was using a phone because we had some people ring us from outside and tell us that he had threatened them and they did search him, but of course the phone was on the other side of the wing when they went in."

NSW Corrective Services Assistant Commissioner Don Rodgers told reporters more arrests were expected.