An alleged top-ranking Comanchero gang member is suing the publisher of The Daily Telegraph, claiming articles linking him to the murder of a fellow bikie embarrassed him and injured his reputation.
Ali Bazzi has launched defamation proceedings against Nationwide News and journalist Emma Partridge in the Federal Court over stories that reported he met the men who were later charged with the murder of ex-Comanchero boss Mick Hawi prior to his shooting.
The Daily Telegraph alleged that Mr Bazzi is a close confidante of the Comancheros national president Mark Buddle, who fled to Europe in 2016 and is a suspect in several police investigations.
Mr Hawi was gunned down outside a Rockdale gym in February last year and three men associated with the Lone Wolf bikie gang face charges relating to the murder.
The Daily Telegraph reported in August that Mr Bazzi met the alleged gunmen at the Sydney Opera House concourse three days before the murder and quoted a source “close to Hawi” saying the hit may have been sparked by a factional dispute within the Comanchero bikie gang.
The hit was signed off by Comancheros and may have been ordered by a gang member living in Dubai, the source is alleged to have told the newspaper.
According to Mr Bazzi’s statement of claim, he was in Dubai at the time the story was published.
Mr Bazzi claimed the stories carried the defamatory meanings that he sanctioned and plotted the death of Mr Hawi.
“The applicant has been brought into hatred, ridicule and contempt and has been gravely injured in his character and reputation and has suffered hurt and embarrassment and has suffered and will continue to suffer loss and damage,” his statement of claim says.
But Nationwide News has claimed in its defence that the articles did not convey the meaning that Mr Bazzi plotted the death of Mr Hawi, and to the extent that they may have implied he sanctioned the murder, this was substantially true.
Given that Mr Bazzi was a high-ranking member of a “notoriously violent criminal bikie gang”, that he “knowingly associates with members of the criminal underworld” and was himself a criminal, the claimed imputations did not further harm his reputation in any case, the publisher claims.
According to its defence, one of the Lone Wolf bikies charged with murdering Mr Hawi – Ahmed Doudar – had been called in to resolve a dispute between Mr Hawi and some people in the building and construction industry.
Doudar had been negotiating with both sides from prison, but following his release on February 7, 2018, he agreed with the building industry figures to resolve the dispute by killing Mr Hawi, the defence claims.
Doudar and his co-accused Yusuf Nazlioglu then met with Mr Bazzi at the Sydney Opera House concourse for 20 minutes on February 12.
“It is to be inferred from the notorious rivalry between the CMC [Comancheros] and the LWMC [Lone Wolf gang] that the Opera House meeting was arranged because Doudar and Nazlioglu knew that, unless [Mr Bazzi], as acting national president of the CMC, knew of the reasons to shoot and kill Hawi, and made a CMC order to the contrary, members of the CMC would likely seek retribution against them and/or the LWMC, because Fitness First was located on CMC ‘territory’ and Hawi was a former national president of the CMC,” the defence said.
The further inference was that Doudar and Nazlioglu told Mr Bazzi of their intention to kill Mr Hawi and asked him to ensure no Comancheros took retribution against Lone Wolf members, it said.
Mr Hawi was president of the Comanchero bikie gang until he was jailed over the notorious Sydney Airport brawl of 2009 that resulted in the death of a Hells Angels associate.
He was released from prison in 2016 and had been keeping a low-profile until his dramatic demise.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald