DRUG LORD ARRESTED
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