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Melbourne gemstone dealer Ahmed Luqman Talib was arrested in Melbourne on Thursday 25 March by Australian Federal Police. Image credit: Australian Federal Police
Melbourne gemstone dealer Ahmed Luqman Talib was arrested in Melbourne on Thursday 25 March by Australian Federal Police. Image credit: Australian Federal Police

Australian gemstone dealer charged with terrorism offences

A Melbourne gemstone dealer, who was sanctioned last year by the US Treasury for links to terrorist organisation al-Qaeda, has been denied bail after his arrest in a counter-terrorism sting.

Ahmed Luqman Talib, 31, was arrested in Victoria on Thursday 25 March and extradited to Queensland, where he appeared before Brisbane Arrest Courts on Monday 29 March alongside Brisbane-based associate Gabriel Crazzi, 34, the Brisbane Times reports.

Commander Stephen Dametto, Australian Federal Police
Commander Stephen Dametto, Australian Federal Police
"We seized $80,000 in cash, a number of gemstones of high-value, also various electronic devices that we will examine over the next period"
Commander Stephen Dametto, Australian Federal Police Counter-Terrorism and Special Investigations Council

According to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the two men were detained “for their alleged involvement in running a sophisticated terrorist network that facilitated the travel of a number of Australian foreign terrorist fighters to Syria between 2012 and 2014.”

The syndicate – based in southern Queensland – “maintained a religiously motivated violent extremist ideology” and cultivated a network across Australia, Turkey and Syria in order to support organisations including Jabhat al-Nusra, also described as ‘al-Qaeda in Syria’.

In October 2020, the US government designated Talib as an ‘associated facilitator’ of al-Qaeda and subsequently froze his US-based assets as well as prohibiting his trading in the US or with any US citizens. An official statement from the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) declared Talib “has had financial dealings in a number of countries and is involved in dealing gemstones, which provide him with the ability to move funds internationally for the benefit of al-Qaeda.”

Following the US announcement, Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police, and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) officers executed a search warrant of Talib’s home in the Melbourne suburb of Doncaster, though no charges were laid.

Ahmed Luqman Talib.  Image credit: Andrew Henshaw/Herald Sun
Ahmed Luqman Talib. Image credit: Andrew Henshaw/Herald Sun

Talib has now been charged with a single count of preparations for foreign incursions into foreign states for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities, relating to his alleged provision of “information and advice” to an unidentified person, known as ‘Witness 1’, for safe passage into Syria, the Brisbane Times reports.

The report quotes prosecutor Clare O’Connor as saying, “Witness 1 provided direct evidence of the applicant meeting him and introducing him to another person who could help with travel to Syria… The Crown case is comprised of investigations and analysis of movements and communications between these persons [the three at the alleged meeting] over a number of years.”

British-born Talib is director of Talib & Sons, a coloured gemstones supplier that was registered with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission in May 2019. It has been reported that Talib’s Australian wife, Jerry Campbell, is a minority member shareholder of the business.

Of the simultaneous arrests of Talib and Crazzi, Commander Stephen Dametto, AFP Counter-Terrorism and Special Investigations Command, said, “We seized $80,000 in cash, a number of gemstones of high-value, also various electronic devices that we will examine over the next period.”

He added that the arrests were “an example of our commitment to discourage Australians from fighting overseas and holding people to account for their involvement in supporting terrorism and terrorist organisations”.

"Defence barrister Leon Ackermann argued that the Crown's case was weak... He also stated that Talib had little prior criminal history and was the breadwinner for his family, including his wife and their eight young children"

If convicted, Talib faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

Appearing for Talib in the Brisbane court, defence barrister Leon Ackermann argued that the Crown's case was weak and that allegations against Talib were not as serious as the charges levelled at Crazzi. He also stated that Talib had little prior criminal history and was the breadwinner for his family, including his wife and their eight young children, aged three months to 10 years.

Talib’s bail application was refused and the matter was adjourned to Brisbane Magistrates Court on 25 June.

Father and brother detained

Talib's Qatar-based father, Professor Lukman Thalib, and brother Ismail Talib, were detained without charge for six months beginning in July 2020. 

Professor Thalib, a biostatistician, moved from Brisbane to Doha in 2015 and was acting head of Qatar University's public health department at the time of his arrest. According to The Guardian Australia, the Talib family approached the Australian government for help in October 2020; the father and son were released in January 2021. 

London-based advocacy group CAGE, which provided assistance to the family, said the Talibs believed the arrests were part of a "collective punishment", adding that Professor Thalib and his son had been subjected to "torturous conditions" at an undisclosed facility. 

Professor Thalib's daughter, Maryam Talib, claimed no formal charges had been laid nor justifications provided for the detention of her father and brother, and accused the Australian government of "negligence and unjustifiable complacency" in securing their release, the ABC reports. 

A spokesperson for Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the ABC that it had "provided consular assistance to two Australian men who had been detained in Qatar" but declined to provide further comment "owing to privacy considerations".

 

More reading:
Australian gemstone dealer linked to al-Qaeda
 











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