US fugitive evaded authorities despite alert
International fugitive Richard Chichakli and his defacto wife entered Australia in 2010 using false passports when he was the subject of an Interpol red-notice alert indicating he was wanted in the United States and should be arrested immediately, a court heard today.
The red alert included Chichakli's photograph, but he was not stopped by airport authorities.
Chichakli, 53, who was wanted over his dealings with the ''merchant of death'', arms dealer Viktor Bout, had been on the run for almost eight years before he settled in Melbourne under the name Jehad Almustafa.
He is believed to have flown on a Qatar Airways flight from Moscow to Doha before arriving in Melbourne on June 26, 2010.
He had a Medicare card, driver's licence, Victoria proof of age card and Tax Office file number all in the name of Almustafa and regularly flew into and out of Australia for more than two years.
Chichakli was arrested on January 10 at a rental property in Reservoir after applying to be a protective services officer and submitting his fingerprints to Victoria Police as part of the job application.
He had earlier undergone psychological and physical fitness testing at the Victoria Police academy in August 2012 and passed.
Chichakli had also applied for a number of other jobs with the Australian Defence Force and the Country Fire Authority.
He appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday to apply for bail while he waits for the US government to seek a formal order to have him extradited to New York.
Australian Federal Police agent Viktor Lewis told the court Chichakli was considered an extreme flight risk if granted bail.
When arrested, Chichakli had $A500, $US1100 and 1000 Euros.
Mr Lewis said the fact Chichakli was carrying such a significant amount of money showed his preparedness to flee the country at short notice.
A colour-scanned image was found on Chichakli's computer of a South African passport in the name of David Wiseman.
Mr Lewis said an SMS text found on Chichakli's mobile phone indicated he was receiving a monthly payment of $2100, believed to be from Bout's brother.
Questioned by defence lawyer Tim Marsh, Mr Lewis agreed Chichakli had frequently travelled in and out of Australia before coming to the attention of federal authorities when he submitted his fingerprints for a job application.
Corrections Victoria's Brendan Money, called to give evidence by Chichakli's legal aid team, told the court Chichakli was being held in solitary confinement at the Melbourne Remand Centre and was shackled by the wrists and feet when taken from his four metre by three metre cell.
Mr Marsh said that professionally, Chichakli was an accountant, ''not a ninja''.
Mr Money said Chichakli was in lockdown because he was a possible threat to the prison given his links to serious crime.
There were also concerns Chichakli could be targeted by other prisoners because he had applied to be a PSO, a job involving law enforcement.
Lawyer Alexandra Folie, representing the US government, said Chichakli was a flight risk because he was found with identification documents in the name of Almustafa from three countries and bank accounts in six countries.
US officials allege Chichakli helped Bout - portrayed in fictional form by Nicolas Cage in the film Lord of War - illegally buy planes in the US.
In February 2010, the US announced Bout and Chichakli were wanted for money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy over their alleged links to former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, who was sentenced last year to 50 years' jail for war crimes.
Chichakli, a US citizen, has been on the run since April 2005, when the FBI and Treasury Department raided his home near Dallas, Texas. It was rumoured he had gone to Syria then Moscow.
Under American law it is illegal for associates of Taylor to do business in the US. Bout, allegedly with Chichakli's help, spent years selling arms to Taylor.
Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and in 2010 extradited to the US to stand trial for terrorism after being accused of intending to smuggle arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to use against US forces.
Last April he was convicted of four counts of conspiracy to kill Americans, to sell anti-aircraft missiles, and to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation.
Magistrate Duncan Reynolds said he would hand down his decision on Chichakli’s bail application on Thursday.