A member of the Michael Ibrahim-led tobacco-smuggling ring acted out of a need for money, not loyalty, a court has heard as he faces sentencing next month.
A member of the Michael Ibrahim-led tobacco-smuggling ring acted out of a need for money, not loyalty, a court has heard as he faces sentencing next month.

Tobacco smuggler did it for money, not loyalty

A man who acted as a courier for an international tobacco syndicate did so out of a need for money, not loyalty, a court has heard.

Talal Derbas on Friday appeared in Sydney's Downing Centre District Court where he is facing two charges related to the international crime ring led by Michael Ibrahim.

Derbas, 47, in late 2018 pleaded guilty to taking part in the tobacco smuggling ring.

He is facing up to 10 years in jail after being charged with conveying tobacco products with intent to defraud revenue.

The syndicate was smashed when it was infiltrated by an undercover police operative who offered the group a "door" or way of sneaking illegal goods through customs.

Michael Ibrahim, the brother of Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim, was in May sentenced to 30 years' jail, with an 18-year non-parole period, after he was found guilty of planning to import nearly 2 tonnes of drugs as well as illegal tobacco.

Michael Ibrahim pictured at Sydney Airport in 2017. Picture: News Corp
Michael Ibrahim pictured at Sydney Airport in 2017. Picture: News Corp

John Ibrahim was never charged in relation to the ring and is not said to be involved.

Crown prosecutor Travis Jackson on Friday told the court that while it had been contended Derbas was motivated by "loyalty" to commit the offences, his primary driver was money.

"Much has been made of that he felt a sense of obligation to other people," Mr Jackson said.

"But the submission of the Crown is while there may have been limited aspects to that loyalty, the clear reasoning was for financial gain."

The court heard Derbas had experienced financial problems and was burdened with medical costs because of his ill mother.

The prosecution says Derbas was offered money by Ibrahim, but could not say if he received any financial compensation.

Derbas was a part of the syndicate over an 8 month period from November 2016 to July 2017 and his role was limited to acting as a driver to move the tobacco shipments.

Talal Derbas has been convicted for being part of a tobacco smuggling ring. Picture: AAP
Talal Derbas has been convicted for being part of a tobacco smuggling ring. Picture: AAP

Defence barrister Kenneth Averre argued Derbas' offending sat on the lower end of the spectrum of seriousness and described his actions as out of character.

Mr Averre also pointed out that Derbas' dealings with the syndicate were limited to tobacco products.

He will be sentenced on September 4.

Several key players in the ring have already faced sentencing.

In April, Moustafa Dib was imprisoned for 18 years and 2 months, with a non parole period of 12 years, for his role in importing 800kg of MDMA.

Ahmad Ahmad was jailed for 15 years and 2 months, with a non-parole period of 8 years and 9 months, while Hassan Fakhreddine was sentenced to 13 years and 7 months jail, with a non-parole period of 8 years.

In November, Ryan Watsford was given an 8 years and 6 months jail sentence - with a non-parole period of 4 years - after being given a 60 per cent discount on his sentence.

Originally published as Tobacco smuggler did it for money, not loyalty


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