DRUG LORD AR­RESTED

The West Australian - - FRONT PAGE - Gary Ad­shead and Charles Mi­randa

A global or­gan­ised crime target wanted in Perth over a $40 mil­lion drug ship­ment has been ar­rested near his heav­ily guarded hill­top home in east­ern Europe.

Vaso Ulic, 58, be­came well known to WA Po­lice be­cause of his con­nec­tions to Perth crime fig­ures in­clud­ing Fabian Quaid and Troy Mer­canti.

Quaid is serv­ing a 17-year jail sen­tence for his role in traf­fick­ing 44kg of ec­stasy through Fre­man­tle Port — a 2008 drug con­spir­acy in which Ulic was the co­or­di­na­tor, ac­cord­ing to Supreme Court doc­u­ments.

Since 2014, pros­e­cu­tors in Ulic’s sup­posed safe haven of Mon­tene­gro have had a de­tailed brief from the Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice which in­cludes a dozen files about the for­mer Syd­ney crime fig­ure. Yes­ter­day, the coun­try’s Di­rec­torate for Drugs and Smug­gling joined with the Spe­cial Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice for Or­gan­ised Crime and raided Ulic’s home just out­side the Mon­tene­grin cap­i­tal of Pod­gor­ica af­ter ar­rest­ing him at a nearby shop­ping cen­tre.

It is al­leged that the Al­ba­nian-born Ulic, who is a dual Aus­tralian-Mon­tene­grin na­tional, has been be­hind one of the world’s largest drug car­tels and money-laun­der­ing op­er­a­tions.

In 2010, The West Aus­tralian re­vealed the ex­tent of his

The files of Aus­tralian and in­ter­na­tional po­lice agen­cies do not mince words when paint­ing a pic­ture of what they al­lege are Vaso Ulic’s ex­ten­sive or­gan­ised crime ac­tiv­i­ties.

In­tel­li­gence gath­ered by of­fi­cers of the for­mer Yu­gosla­vian po­lice, for ex­am­ple, im­pli­cate Ulic in the at­tempted mur­der of a Ser­bian po­lit­i­cal leader.

But it could well be the king­pin role Ulic al­legedly played in a drug-traf­fick­ing op­er­a­tion be­tween Mau­ri­tius and Fre­man­tle that has re­sulted in the long arm of the law fi­nally reach­ing out to him in Mon­tene­gro — a tiny Balkans coun­try known for its beau­ti­ful lakes and coast­line.

Since the late 1990s, Perth gang­ster-about-town Fabian Quaid had a con­nec­tion to Ulic and went on to re­gard him as a fa­ther fig­ure.

He and other Perth crim­i­nals trav­elled to Mon­tene­gro to en­joy the wed­ding of Ulic’s daugh­ter in 2002 and from that point the bonds be­tween the transna­tional crime syn­di­cates strength­ened.

In ev­i­dence to his trial in 2009, Quaid de­nied that he and Ulic were part of a con­spir­acy to im­port $40 mil­lion worth of ec­stasy pow­der, claim­ing the pair’s many tele­phone calls were about wed­dings and mov­ing cash.

He said that Ulic would send peo­ple to him to “fa­cil­i­tate money be­ing shuf­fled ev­ery­where”.

Quaid, an ex­pert in mar­tial arts, also claimed he would col­lect debts for his Al­ba­ni­an­born friend and that Ulic’s main busi­ness was in lend­ing money to peo­ple.

“Well, if you wanted $100,000 he’d charge you 8 per cent a week, or 8 per cent a day, but it was for des­per­ate sort of peo­ple — like loan shark­ing, le­gal loan shark­ing,” Quaid told the court.

But the whole story was man­u­fac­tured in an at­tempt to ex­plain the coded con­ver­sa­tions the duo had on their way to or­ches­trat­ing the ec­stasy deal.

Be­fore be­ing jailed in 2010, Quaid was among a net­work of tar­gets pur­sued by WA Po­lice as part of Task­force Schu­macher.

It was not long be­fore the name Ulic ap­peared on the in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ radar as they tried to track a dif­fer­ent ship­ment of drugs.

About 160kg of ec­stasy tablets had been in­ter­cepted by Cus­toms of­fi­cers in Syd­ney and Ulic was sus­pected of be­ing the source. He had left Aus­tralia in 2004 to ar­range the ship­ment from Europe, and has not been back.

The drugs ar­rived in sealed cof­fee bags and were hid­den in a con­sign­ment of an­tique fur­ni­ture from Bel­gium.

But when Cus­toms of­fi­cers pounced in Syd­ney, the Perth ec­stasy im­porters got wind of the in­ter­cept and aban­doned their ship­ment.

Mem­bers of the Perth syn­di­cate and Ulic’s group evaded cap­ture on that oc­ca­sion.

The prob­lem was, they also missed out on a big pay­day to cover their lav­ish life­styles.

It was not long be­fore they were hatch­ing other drug traf­fick­ing schemes to make up for the loss.

WA Po­lice are not the only ones who would be keen to see Ulic re­turned to Aus­tralia.

Aus­tralian law en­force­ment agen­cies have pur­sued him for more than two decades.

In 1993, he was a sus­pect in the gang­land shoot­ing mur­der of a Kings Cross night­club bouncer.

It was only af­ter a cor­rupt de­tec­tive con­fessed that money had changed hands to thwart the orig­i­nal mur­der in­quiry that a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan.

Ulic was ex­tra­dited from Ger­many, but the charges were dropped.

The 58-year-old was driven to a court­room in Mon­tene­gro yes­ter­day and is be­ing held on a 72-hour ar­rest or­der, pend­ing charges.

The Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice will be fol­low­ing what hap­pens in the next few days very closely.

Like loan shark­ing, le­gal loan shark­ing. Fabian Quaid’s de­scrip­tion of Ulic’s busi­ness

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