Four charged in Sydney and Canada over alleged extortion attempt of senior Iraqi MP

Four people have been charged in Sydney and Canada over alleged attempts to extort $10 million from a senior Iraqi politician, after what was described as a year-long campaign of intimidation.

Dual raids were launched at dawn on Wednesday after a string of attacks on a Sydney home and online extortion attempts linked to an address in Canada.

The target was the family of a “very senior politician” who is a dual Australian and Iraqi citizen and “spends almost all of his time in Iraq”, Australian police said.

Australian investigators were able to link social media accounts used in the affair to the city of Edmonton in western Canada, NSW police said.

The attacks are believed to have begun in December 2019, when masked and armed assailants broke into a home in western Sydney, striking a 16-year-old boy on the head with a firearm and stealing cash.

Eight months later, shots were fired at the house while two adults, two teenagers and a child were inside. A window was smashed in a separate incident.

Earlier this month, the front porch was set on fire in the dead of night and a threatening note was left outside.

“Throughout this time, the family received various demands for money and threats to their welfare via social media and letters left at their home,” NSW police said in a statement.

Detective chief superintendent Darren Bennett of the NSW Police State Crime Command, said the Canadian man was the mastermind behind the plot that involved attacks on the family’s home in Chester Hill and online threats, demanding payment of up to $10 million.

Australian media named the member of parliament as Ahmed Assadi – a senior figure in the Hashed al-Shaabi, a powerful state-sponsored paramilitary network formed from mostly-Shiite armed groups.

Police did not confirm the man’s identity.

Two men – aged 24 and 22 – were arrested at Blacktown and Seven Hills respectively and were both charged with six offences, including sending a document threatening death or grievous bodily harm, multiple property charges, and participating in a criminal group to contribute criminal activity.

The men were due to appear in Blacktown Local Court on Thursday.

Edmonton police reported that they had also arrested a man, Ghazi Shanta, 33, and a woman, Diana Kadri, 32, who are each charged with extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion. They were charged with extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion. Police seized one imitation firearm and electronic devices from one of the addresses.

“With the immediacy of today’s communication tools, it was critical for us to collaborate with Australian police to make simultaneous arrests on opposite sides of the planet,” Phil Hawkins of the Edmonton force’s Cyber Crime Investigations Unit said.

“The search warrants were executed seamlessly, and together, we were able to bring four suspects in two countries into custody without incident,” he said.

The unit got involved following an Interpol request from the Australian federal police.

Additional reporting by Australian Associated Press