By Natalie O'Brien January 18, 2007 12:00am Article from: The Australian FROM the waistband of his blue jeans, the Sydney underworld figure pulls out a black handgun and dumps it on the kitchen table in front of me. With his other hand he produces a thick wad of bank notes from his jacket pocket. The $5000 he places next to the 9mm Glock pistol, he assures me, is enough to buy another one. "I can get you a handgun in five days. If you want an automatic weapon like a AK47 (Kalashnikov assault rifle) it will take a little longer and cost twice as much. How many do you want?" Faisal, not his real name, is linked to a feared Sydney crime gang that has been caught up in a deadly feud with a rival gang, which has allegedly left at least four people dead and numerous others shot in the legs - a classic underworld warning tactic known as "kneecapping". It is the same criminal gang that is alleged to have bought seven rocket launchers stolen from the army and then allegedly onsold five of them to Sydney terror suspect Mohammad Elomar. Allegations have been made about how the seven rocket launchers - which can penetrate concrete and obliterate vehicles - fell into the hands of Sydney's underworld and ultimately an alleged terror cell. An insight into the murky world of arms dealing in Sydney came last week when alleged dealer Taha Abdulrahman, 28, appeared in court charged with arranging the sale of the rocket launchers to gang leader Adnan Darwiche, who is now in jail. Documents tendered to the court state for the first time the alleged interconnections between suspected terror cells and the criminal underworld - including how Sydney man Mohammed Touma was an alleged associate of Darwiche, while his brother Mazen Touma was an alleged member of the terror cell along with Elomar. I arranged to speak to Faisal in a house in Sydney's western suburbs, to talk about the hundreds of shooting incidents that have rocked Sydney in the past few years and to gauge the availability of guns and weaponry on the streets. He is unequivocal about the ease with which firearms can be purchased. Get the cash and it's a just a matter of days while the underworld connections receive the guns from their suppliers. "It is a matter of ordering what you want and then waiting," Faisal says. Police statistics appear to bear this out. Last year, there were 3500 illegal guns seized across NSW. Everything is on offer from pistols and the highly prized Glocks, which are easy to conceal and can unload 17 rounds in a matter of seconds, to Uzi machine guns and hand grenades. The anti-tank missiles stolen from the Australian army were bought for about $15,000 each. "Crime figures have access to weapons, but they are mainly second-hand and they get them by dealing among themselves," says Detective Superintendent Ken McKay, the commander of the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad. The MEOCS was set up to investigate crime in Sydney's southwest, the suburbs of which have been dubbed Australia's deadliest because of the spate of drive-by shootings and murders. Its predecessor, Taskforce Gain, had made more than 1300 arrests, including 12 for murder and attempted murder and 178 for firearms offences. Many of the offences were committed in Lakemba, Greenacre, Condell Park, Punchbowl and Auburn, the suburbs that stretch around the Arab heartland of Sydney. It is in these so-called badlands that the suspected terror cell allegedly bought five rocket launchers from Darwiche. Michael Kennedy, a former NSW police officer turned academic specialising in Middle Eastern crime gangs, says terrorism and organised crime have overlapped around the world, particularly with the Irish Republican Army and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. "But most of the time the overlap relates to entrepreneurial activity by terrorist groups and organised crime networks. The gangsters to make money and the terrorist groups to raise funds," Kennedy says. Police have recovered only one of the rocket launchers. The others allegedly bought by Elomar, who police say joked he was going to blow up NSW Parliament or Lucas Heights, have not been located. Police have been searching forest and bushland around Sydney to locate the weapons as well as a stash of firearms the group is alleged to have obtained. NSW police began warning about rising violence and the use of increased firepower by criminal gangs as far back as the mid-1980s. By the '90s, the problem was obvious with the growing gang violence involving notorious gangster Danny Karam, who was murdered in 1998 and whose associates have gone on to become members of the Darwiche gang and terrorism suspects. Kennedy says those suspected of involvement in terrorism "had simply decided they don't want to be criminals, they want to be zealots". In 1999, the then NSW commander of crime agencies, Clive Small, established a firearms trafficking unit to identify the source of the firearms, dealers, supply routes and use. It was the first of its type in Australia, resulting in more than 235 people being arrested and charged with 1100 gun-related offences. Police have also seized 1500 illegal handguns and 3400 longarms (rifles, semi-automatics and machine guns) as well as hand grenades and explosives. The commander of the NSW Firearms and Regulated Industry Crime Squad, Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec, says gun seizures are down because there "is a shrinking market". Kerlatec says most guns seized were second-hand and were obtained mainly by theft and illegal diversion rather than being imported illegally. The police are now using a system known as Integrated Ballistics Identification System to match the guns to crimes and often find that a firearm used in one shooting will turn up at another, sometimes involving a rival group. Even though serial numbers on the weapons might be removed, police ballistics tests can link the weapon to a shooting crime. A Sydney underworld gang member who has "rolled" told police they continuously bought and sold pistols and machine guns. His statement reveals how gang members bought pistols, including 9mm Glocks and SKS semi-automatic rifles, and kept them in a number of safe houses around the city. When they wanted to dispose of a hot weapon they would either melt it down or sell it interstate. As part of a crackdown on guns, the NSW police spent 2003-04 inspecting all licensed gun owners and where they kept their weapons. In NSW, there are 135,000 licensed gun users and 600,000 registered guns. Kerlatec says tighter security has cut theft almost in half. As armed guards are known targets, stricter controls led to a 50 per cent reduction in the number of guards carrying firearms. Investigations by the Australian Crime Commission, the nation's peak law enforcement agency, have also resulted in 1300 guns being seized or quarantined in the 2005-06 year. The ACC used its coercive powers to target firearms brokers, suppliers and dealers. But the ACC's key finding was that Australia needed a sustained and nationally co-ordinated effort targeting the supply of the firearms black market and its brokers. In the year to September 2006, there were 23 shooting murders in Sydney, and 31 attempted shooting murders according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. In the same period there were 36 other shootings. And Kennedy says gangsters will remain "tooled up". "This is what organised crime does," Kennedy says. "There is no code of conduct. They don't go to uni and do ethics for gangsters ... People are doing what they have do to to survive. If we have a proliferation (of people being armed) it is because there are a lot of people who feel the need to have them." Faisal naturally blames the authorities for inflaming tensions between rival "crews" by telling each side that the other was responsible for shooting at them. He maintains he is a marked man and he can't appear on the streets of southwest Sydney without a gun for protection. As he conceals the pistol in his jeans, he says he will continue to carry it when he moves around the area. It is the only chance he has to protect himself against being "knocked". Natalie O'Brien is a senior writer at The Australian specialising in terrorism and crime. ---- $5 G's for a Glock 10k for an AK Time for a career change.