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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Dubai drug suspects drank champagne on board $20,000-a trip yacht in the hours before their arrest

Police grabbed gang shortly after they disembarked the vessel in Dubai Marina

A yacht sails around the Burj Al Arab. Courtesy Xclusive Yachts
A yacht sails around the Burj Al Arab. Courtesy Xclusive Yachts

A champagne cruise around the Palm Jumeirah and a wild party on board an 84-foot luxury yacht was a fitting way for an alleged Australian drug gang to spend their last few hours of freedom in Dubai.

The ‘Dubai Five’ of Michael Ibrahim, 39, older brother Fadi, 43, Mustapha Dib, Stephen Elmir and Koder Jomaa, 47, were arrested shortly after docking after a five-hour cruise around the city coastline.

They had hired the vessel for $20,000, paid in cash, and drank Cristal champagne by the bottle, staff said.

A joint sting operation between Australian and UAE authorities two years in the making reached its dramatic conclusion in the early hours of Tuesday morning, August 8.

The gang stands accused of running a complex narcotics and tobacco smuggling syndicate worth more than Dh2.4 billion that would have seen Australian streets flooded with deadly crystal meth, cocaine and ecstasy tablets – as well as 50 million cigarettes.

More than 70 anti-narcotics officers are understood to have worked on the case, with a crack team of police awaiting to arrest the men shortly after leaving the vessel they had hired from Xclusive Yachts, a popular charter company with tourists.

“We can confirm these guys had hired one of our yachts for about five hours on a pleasure cruise around The Palm,” said a sales director at Xclusive Yachts.

“They were picked up by police shortly after they returned the boat and disembarked.

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“It was a standard hire. They picked up the boat for a pleasure cruise to do some sight-seeing and have a bit of a jolly.

“They were quite a big group, certainly more than just the five who were arrested.

“There was a lead booker, but I don’t know the name. They were on our VIP 84-foot yacht Maiora, an Italian boat.”

The yacht hired is in the VIP class of boats available for private charter.

It has “superb interior luxury” according to a promotional guide – with “sophisticated parquet wooden flooring, discrete ceiling lights, warm wooden walls which contain a touch of sugar colored fabric paneling”.

The yacht promises to deliver “an illustrious delight” with those onboard set to be amazed with a completely equipped full Bose surround system and full air conditioning throughout a “mesmerizing” 84-foot interior.

On board, VIP cabins are the full width of the yacht’s beam with large comfortable beds and aesthetic furnishing with wide panoramic views providing stunning views of Dubai.

There is also a substantial dining area and contemporary saloon, and a generous outdoor sundeck, complete with bar and barbecue.

That luxury doesn’t come cheap, with Xclusive Yachts confirming the gang paid $20,000 in cash for the hire.

“They were certainly living the high life and had a couple of cases of Cristal champagne on board,” the charter company’s sales director added.

“It looks as though they were picked up pretty quickly, they obviously knew where they were and what they were doing and picked them up when they were most vulnerable.

"We’ve had no contact from police in relation to this particular hire.The men are understood to have been taken into custody at Barsha police station where they await a court hearing for extradition back to Australia.

Lawyers have said the men could be detained longer in Dubai, if they have property here in the UAE that can be connected to the alleged criminal activity.