Name: Hakan Ayik
Type Of Crime: Drug related|||Drug related
Contact: Crimestoppers 1300 333 000
Date of Birth: 31/01/1979
Height: 175cm to 180cm
Appearance: Middle Eastern / Mediterranean
Skin Tone: Olive complexion
Wanted For: Supply of large commercial quantities of drugs.
On NSW police most wanted list for the supply of large commercial quantities of drugs.
Hakan Ayik has been a major target of one of the most significant investigations into organised crime in Australia. Codenamed Hoffman, it has spent at least two years probing an entire drug dealing network whose tentacles reach throughout Australia, in the NSW police force and prison system, on the nation's docks, and overseas.
The inquiry- detailed on the ABC's Four Corners on August 30, 2010 - has been led by the Australian Crime Commission, but includes crucial contributions from the NSW and West Australian police, the Australian Federal Police, the NSW Crime Commission and the nation's anti-money laundering agency Austrac.
It is significant for several reasons: not only does it reveal with unprecedented clarity the extent of the threat posed by organised crime in Australia, but it highlights the difficulty authorities face in fighting a new breed of borderless criminals.
The old-school gangsters who stay in their local patch and deal only with family members or those who speak their own language are dying out. John Lawler, who heads the Australian Crime Commission, the elite body that fights organised crime, describes ''networked groups of organised criminals, across cultural divides, across national and international boundaries … absolutely focused on profit [and] power''.
Ayik's story is important because it opens a window into the changing battle against organised crime and the technologically savvy and highly mobile modern Australian underworld that is much harder to police and is capable of amassing great wealth with relative ease.
It only takes a quick internet search to realise that Ayik is a vain man. A few keystrokes and here he is, grinning and shirtless, draping his gym-sculpted arms over the shoulders of two lingerie-clad Asian women. A photo on a business networking site shows the graduate of Sydney's James Cook High School as an entrepreneur (and director of ''multi-capital trading''), wearing a white shirt, dark jacket, and sunglasses, one arm raised and a fist clenched in a pose of unbridled confidence.
Then there are the travel video clips, available only to Ayik's Facebook friends (a mere 300 or so of them), depicting him in Dubai, Turkey and Hong Kong, either enjoying a helicopter ride, watching the formula one grand prix or firing a semi-automatic pistol at a shooting range.
Perhaps the most telling video clip is the one that shows Ayik travelling to Hong Kong with Daux Ngukuru, the sergeant-at-arms of Sydney's notorious Comanchero bikie gang. Ayik has also posted a photograph of himself on this trip with Mark Ho, a Chinese gangster linked to the triads. Ho served a prison stint in Australia in 2001 for heroin trafficking before moving back to China.
As well as being a tribute to Ayik's self-regard, these online images demonstrate the breadth of the connections of those who operate in today's criminal underworld. Compare this to a decade ago when Australian bikies would have viewed a trip interstate as a major journey.
Having a relationship with the triads opens up a wide range of business possibilities, including access to the Chinese factories (legal or otherwise) that manufacture huge amounts of the precursor chemicals needed to make illicit drugs.
Former NSW Police assistant commissioner Clive Small says the increasing ease with which underworld figures conduct business offshore - where they are extremely difficult to monitor - shows ''how organised crime is maturing in Australia and how it's becoming an increasing threat that we have to deal with''.
In another Facebook clip Ayik features his $300,000 sports car and his jewel-encrusted watches. The soundtrack is by rap star Akon and is titled Trouble Maker. It includes the line: ''I'm that type of guy your daddy won't let you go out [with] cos he thinks I sell drugs …''
The first hint that the choice of this song was no coincidence came with a bump and a screech when a light plane landed on Perth's wind-swept Janadakot airport in March 2008. Waiting on the tarmac were several grim-faced local police detectives who were about to give the passengers from NSW a welcome they would never forget.
Several hours later, the plane's cargo - 22 kilograms of methamphetamine and about 35,000 ecstasy tablets - was on display at a press conference called by police to announce the arrest of the plane's two passengers. The bust was a record seizure for the state police, and it also raised questions about where the drugs had been sourced and by whom.
A later submission by the WA Police to the federal parliamentary committee that oversees the Australian Crime Commission was of the view that ''Perth's domestic security barriers rarely detect'' drug runners who do the bidding of ''authoritarian'' traffickers.
The statement was not without merit; authorities had confirmed that the light plane in question had made the journey several times before, presumably laden with a similar cargo. NSW authorities also discovered that one of the men arrested at the airport allegedly worked for Ayik.
After the bust, several policing agencies developed a strong interest in Hakan Ayik: police intelligence in NSW noted his unexplained wealth and the view that the Comancheros regarded him as a man who could enrich the club's coffers.
But investigating Ayik would not be easy, partly because of the frequency with which he moved interstate and overseas, effectively hopping from one police jurisdiction to the next and using an array of mobile phones as he went. Was there another way of keeping track of him?
Making money means moving money, be it to bank accounts in Australia or, as is often the case with crime figures, to accounts offshore. In other words, it means creating a trail that, with the right tools, can be followed.
As police interest in Ayik began to grow in 2008, the task of ''following the money'' was being carried out by the Australian Crime Commission, the relatively small but powerful agency formed in 2002 to co-ordinate the nation's often poorly managed fight against organised crime.
By mid 2008, the ACC was wrapping up a three-year operation that had uncovered at least 300 million narco-dollars being moved offshore, mainly by Vietnamese and Chinese drug syndicates, via four small money-remitting agencies in Sydney and Melbourne.
The ACC had employed its ''High Risk Funds Strategy''. This involves watching suspicious flows of money - moved via the formal and informal banking sector - to uncover the business structures that connect lower-end drug distributors to the higher-end, and mostly offshore-based, importers. The strategy also allows the ACC to reach a better estimate of the size of the nation's dirty-money trade, which, in turn, leads to better estimates of the size of the criminal economy.
A confidential federal government report based on the results of the High Risk Funds Strategy between 2005 and 2008 concluded that drug importations ''may have previously been underestimated by a significant margin'' and that ''most organised crime-related activities'' in Australia go undetected. In 2008, then then ACC boss, Alastair Milroy, revealed that by employing the strategy the ACC had tracked up to $12 billion in drug dollars flowing offshore every year.
Understanding exactly how Operation Hoffman operated is difficult, because much of the operation is still under wraps. But it is believed that critical to the probe was the formation of a policing coalition of the willing. If Ayik disregarded state and national boundaries (on one online posting, Ayik describes his location as Sydney, Hong Kong, China, Bangkok, and Seoul, South Korea) state and federal agencies needed to work together - no easy task, given the deep mistrust between certain policing agencies in Australia.
Under the quiet direction of the ACC, police across the country hatched a plan to dismantle parts of the alleged crime network linked to Ayik. Under this plan Ayik was seen as a sort of fixer who utilised his associates, be they Chinese criminals or bikies, to import and move drugs.
The plan's first public manifestation took place in May 2009, when the NSW police stormed an apartment in Kogarah in Sydney's south. They discovered five automatic pistols, a Thompson submachinegun, a Kalashnikov, a military issue automatic shotgun and three assault rifles. They also found explosives and what appeared to be police-issue bullet-resistant jackets, helmets and uniforms.
The media reported the discovery of the weapons stash as a development in the war between the Comancheros and the Hells Angels that earlier had led to a man being bashed to death at Sydney Airport. But there were other connections: the man arrested and charged with weapons offences in connection to the raid was Ayik's nephew.
Operation Hoffman reared its head again in September, this time on the Pacific island of Tonga, when Tongan and New Zealand police announced the discovery of 40 kilograms of liquid methamphetamine, or ice, during a raid on the home of a corrupt local customs officer. The local media described the drugs bust as Tonga's biggest ever and that the drugs had been bound for another country.
What was not revealed was Australian authorities suspected that Ayik had planned to import the drugs to this country. Exactly how he would do this is unclear. But it is believed that within his network is a host of maritime industry insiders capable of helping smuggle contraband past customs.
Operation Hoffman is just one of several major police probes in the past five years that has discovered serious corruption on the waterfront. For example, a federal police investigation into a massive shipment of ecstasy in 2008 discovered at least three figures working in the maritime sector in Melbourne who where aiding a major drug syndicate. NSW authorities believe a crew of dock workers in Sydney has facilitated drug importations for at least six years.
IN LATE 2009, the breadth of Ayik's connections was again revealed when NSW police charged one of their civilian employees - who had access to sensitive police intelligence detailing the work of several agencies, including those working on Operation Hoffman - with stealing files that were later leaked to Comanchero associates of Ayik.
NSW Police sources regard the leaks as one of the most serious alleged corruption cases in the past five years, partly because of the risk they posed to the safety of undercover police operatives.
Ayik's online postings reveal a man apparently unfazed by these arrests, planning his 31st birthday party in Hong Kong and posting a new photo on his Facebook profile - a shot of his muscular, gym-buffed chest.
In February 2010, it was the turn of police in Western Australia, who arrested another of Ayik's contacts, the new president of Perth's Comancheros, Steven Milenkovski, over his alleged role in trafficking about seven kilograms of ice from NSW to Perth.
Two months later, NSW police raided drug labs in Sydney, seized 10 kilograms of ice and several weapons, and arrested four men, including two of Ayik's Facebook friends. By now, police had Ayik clearly marked as a key Australian figure in a crime syndicate that had imported, and was still capable of importing, large quantities of ice, heroin, ecstasy and amphetamines. The net was closing.
In August 2010, NSW police pulled over a car in central Sydney and seized 24 kilograms of heroin. Arrested were Ayik's brother and his business partner, another Chinese national. Crucially, NSW detectives believed they now had enough to charge Ayik. But he was nowhere to be found; his Facebook site shut down, his MySpace page became temporarily unavailable. A week after the arrest, NSW police finally issued an arrest warrant for Ayik for alleged drug trafficking. Ayik is now on the NSW Police most wanted list.
The heroin bust in Sydney was the last in a long list of operations, including at least seven multimillion-dollar drug busts, that brought Operation Hoffman to an end. But those in law enforcement aware of its impact are not celebrating.
As a single operation, it is an extraordinary success, not least because it has extended the usual ''make a bust and move on'' mentality of traditional policing and harnessed the resources of several agencies to uncover an entire crime network. But it also provides a measure of the reach of a typical modern crime network and serves as a reminder that the demand for drugs in Australia is fuelling a thriving, multibillion-dollar illicit market, especially in amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine.
In frank comments, Labor Senator Steve Hutchins, who chairs the ACC's parliamentary committee, told the Four Corners program that the fact that major drug busts have little impact on the supply and price of drugs should serve as a wake-up call for the nation.
He said that if all the drug hauls had no effect on supply and the street price, ''then clearly we are not winning that war [on drug trafficking].''
This view is backed by many experienced organised crime investigators, who say that Australian police remain the Davids in a battle against the drug importing and trafficking Goliaths.
''You'd have to be kidding yourself if you thought you were getting any more than probably 10 or 15 per cent [of drugs] off the street,'' says former detective inspector Jim O'Brien, who once headed Victoria's drug squad and the elite Victoria Police Purana Taskforce.
Privately, many senior police concede that in the nation's resource-constrained law enforcement environment, long-term multi-agency probes with the scope and reach of Hoffman remain exceptions to the rule. Among senior police across Australia, there is a consensus that the Australian Crime Commission is badly under-resourced given the challenges it faces.
Hakan Ayik's syndicate is just one of many similar outfits in Australia. Policing agencies in Sydney have recently updated a list of about 150 active, and often overlapping, crime figures they believe need targeting. And that is in NSW alone.