Back to family before Hawi’s life ends in a hail of bullets
By January 2018, Mick Hawi was the picture of a modern underworld figure and needed money to pay for a very modern underworld figure problem.
His son's school fees were due.
It had been almost three years since Hawi was released from jail. He had retreated to a rural property and later moved back to his family home at Bexley and reintegrated himself back into his local community.
And reintegration meant outside world problems like school fees, so, that January day a friend of Hawi's wife, Ophelia Haragli, was driving him to and from a meeting when he had made the complaint, according to the Crown case statement tendered to the NSW Supreme Court.
"My son's school fees are so expensive," Hawi told Ms Haragli.
At that point, the father of two was no longer in the Comanchero and his refrigeration business had tanked long ago when he was in jail.
He needed money to keep things afloat.
One of the revenue streams Hawi had dipped into was the construction game.
Hawi told Ms Haragli and other associates that he was a "silent partner" in a company known as "Synergy Scaffolding" and boasted that he had "increased the company's profits in a very short time", according to the Crown case statement.
The other venture he was exploring was solving - or injecting himself into - disputes between warring investors in the construction industry.
There were different ways to interpret Hawi's foray into the construction game.
While Hawi described himself as a dispute resolutions specialist, others called him a standover man.
There's no suggestion of any wrong doing by anyone else involved with the company.
Hawi had involved himself in a dispute involving a number of Southern Sydney based construction identities and a real estate agent.
On one side were Bexley based construction business owners Adeeb "Eddie" Haragli and Koda Kassira.
Their disagreement was with a local real estate agent Ali Abbas, not to be confused with the criminal lawyer of the same name.
Since 2009, the trio had built a number of residential construction projects around Sydney.
However, by 2016, a disagreement had emerged and all parties decided a development in Earlwood would be their last commercial venture together, according to documents tendered to the NSW Supreme Court.
A deed of release was eventually negotiated and signed, and the two parties then planned to go their separate ways.
Towards the end of 2016, Haragli told police he received a call from either Hawi or one of his close associates to arrange a meeting, according to the Crown case statement.
Haragli knew Hawi from the area and their children went to the same school.
"At the meeting, Hawi alluded to Haragli that people were going to come after Haragli and Kassira and take everything from them," the Crown case statement said.
Hawi said he could keep these people away from them, the statement said.
But Hawi's protection came with a price tag.
At a meeting at Nara Lounge, a Lebanese restaurant in Hurstville, Haragli and Kassira discussed offering Hawi five per cent of their next building project, the Crown statement said.
However, no agreement was reached.
Haragli, Abbas and Kassira were not charged and have not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Towards the end of 2016, Haragli claimed to police that he became aware that the price had increased. Hawi wanted 15 per cent of their next business project, the Crown statement said.
Haragli told police he tried to "drift away" and limit contact with Hawi, but claimed it didn't work.
By March 2017, Haragli's lawyers had finalised the settlement with Abbas, but Hawi was still in the picture.
One night in July 2017, two men wearing hoodies bashed on the front door of Haragli's home. He wasn't home at the time and received a panicked phone call from his son.
Haragli told his son not to open the door and he called the police.
After this, Haragli claimed he became aware through another member of their community that Hawi wanted $500,000 from him and Kassira.
Kassira claimed he paid Hawi $200,000, but Haragli claimed the former Comanchero boss still wanted another $300,000.
However, there was a competing version of events that came from Hawi's wife.
Under cross examination in court during the trial of the men accused of murdering her husband and found not guilty, Gonzales denied Hawi was extorting Haragli for $500,000.
Instead, Gonzales said Haragli had "offered" the money.
The court heard that after Hawi died, Gonzales went to Haragli's house and threatened to kill him.
"I didn't mean it," Gonzales told the court from the witness box. "I was angry, my husband had just died."
Gonzalez has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
Haragli claimed to police that discussions over the money continued until early 2018 when Hawi was in a car with Ophelia Haragli, Haragli's cousin.
In her interview with police, Ophelia claimed that Hawi told her he had helped her cousin in a fall out with Abbas over a debt and that the real estate agent had called in members of the feared Haouchar family for back up.
Abbas has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
Hawi claimed he was owed the money because of all he had done to settle the dispute, Ophelia claimed.
She also told police Hawi claimed he had given money to "the Kiwis" who were the people who made the late night visit to Haragli's home.
Ophelia claimed Hawi became frustrated when she questioned him about the business dispute and that he said: "Just tell him to pay the $300,000 and that's it."
She also claimed that Hawi added: "Make sure he pays the money."
Haragli told police he tried to avoid the issue and hoped it would go away.
Time went by and he didn't hear anything from Hawi.
On February 15, 2018, Haragli had lunch with his cousin's husband at a Bexley cafe, Urban Grain.
He recalled to police there was a problem with parking so he had to drive around the block a couple of times and that he was the only person who drove his car that day.
"The next thing I heard Mick had been shot and killed," Haragli told police.
He signed off his police statement: "I have absolutely no knowledge of why Mick Hawi was shot."
A month after complaining about his son's school fees, Hawi died a gangster's death.
WHO KILLED MICK HAWI?
Someone has gotten away with murder.
The question as to who killed Mick Hawi was delivered an unsatisfying answer on Thursday.
A NSW Supreme Court jury acquitted Lone Wolf bikie Yusuf Guney Nazlioglu, and Jamal Eljaidi of murder after deliberating for five days.
Nazlioglu was accused of being the balaclava wearing gunman who fired a number of bullets into Hawi as he sat in his Mercedes SUV outside Fitness First in Rockdale just after noon
on February 15, 2018.
Eljaidi was accused of being the getaway driver.
A third man, Lone Wolf bikie Ahmad Doudar, has pleaded guilty to the less serious charge of being an accessory after the fact to murder. He is yet to be sentenced.
Doudar was originally accused of co-ordinating the murder. But on the day his trial was due to start in July, he pleaded guilty to the accessory charge.
Doudar's case was run separately, and in an unusual legal quirk the case to which he pleaded guilty named Nazlioglu as the shooter and Eljaidi as the getaway driver. Doudar did not give evidence against either man.
Hawi was left with an unsurvivable penetrating brain injury and died on the afternoon of the day he was shot.
His wife obtained a court order that would allow her to extract his sperm.
The reasoning behind the jury's verdict will remain
secret. But the Crown case was largely circumstantial, without a clear motive emerging.
One possibility put
forward by the Crown was that Hawi and Nazlioglu were once close friends before their relationship soured following an argument on a Central Coast fishing trip in 2016.
But Nazlioglu's barrister Avni Djemal called the
motive theory "weak" and questioned whether he would have been motivated by the fight to plot a sophisticated hit that involved stolen cars, explosives and safe houses. The jury was also told there was a long list of other people who could have a motive to murder Hawi
Perhaps one of the biggest blows to the prosecution case was the height of the accused men. CCTV showed two men running to the scene from the getaway car. One
calculation put the height of the taller man at 186cm.
This ruled out Eljaidi who was nearly 200cm, with his barrister David Dalton SC telling the court he was in "NBA territory".
"The elephant in the room - or more likely to Mr Ejaidi, the giraffe - demonstrates that he could not be one of those offenders," Dalton told the court.
The Crown alleged that after the assassination,
Eljaidi drove Nazlioglu in a Mercedes-Benz to a nearby street, where they set the car on fire before jumping into a silver Toyota Aurion.
Weeks later, a balaclava was found in the Toyota Aurion. It contained DNA consistent with that of Nazlioglu.
Despite the Crown telling the jurors the balaclava also had gun residue on it, Djemal argued the "big piece missing" was the lack of any blood on the balaclava.
There was also no evidence as to when the balaclava was put in the car. Eljaidi's DNA was also found in the car.
But Dalton said Eljaidi was a panel beater and his DNA could have been "innocently transferred" if he'd repaired that car on a prior occasion.
The end result is that the murder of Hawi, arguably Sydney's most infamous gangland assassinations, remains unsolved.
Originally published as Back to family before Hawi's life ends in a hail of bullets