Gun runner stung by police


By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A Narre Warren South man has been jailed as part of an organised crime ring in drugs, guns and stolen luxury cars.

Malaki Salesui, 22, was the last of four offenders sentenced as part of an undercover police sting in Melbourne’s South East in 2019.

He pleaded guilty to handling an $180,000 stolen Mercedes Benz and a $26,000 stolen Audi, as well as being a prohibited person possessing a fully-automatic SKS assault rifle.

Victorian County Court sentencing judge Gerard Mullaly on 2 December noted the “particularly lethal” rifle, capable of firing 100 rounds a minute, was of “great concern”.

The stolen cars were also of seriously high value.

However, Salesui played a lesser role in the organised racket, which was busted by several covert police operatives as part of Operation Thrives.

A co-accused Jayden Schmidt arranged to sell the stolen Audi with the assault rifle in the car boot to a covert police operative for $18,000.

Salesui drove the stolen merchandise to Olive Street, Dandenong where the transaction was made.

In June 2019, Salesui arranged for the stolen Merc to be towed to a Pakenham address and later towed to Worrell Street, Dandenong to sell to a police operative.

At that rendezvous, two of his co-offenders were arrested by Special Operations Group police. Salesui later presented himself to Melbourne West police station.

Salesui’s youth – 19 years at the time – was a central factor for a more “merciful” sentence, the judge noted.

“The courts must persevere and endeavour, perhaps by carrot and stick, to move you towards … your rehabilitation.”

Raised in the South East suburbs, Salesui had struggled with alcohol and substance abuse.

His intellectual disability, “fragile” mental health and solid church and family relationships were also taken into account.

As were his early plea, long delay in sentencing and being remanded in adult jail in onerous pandemic conditions.

Salesui’s recently-approved NDIS support was “said to be the most sure way to … settle you when you’re back in the community”.

Co-offenders Schmidt, of Narre Warren, Iqan Mehrdadian, of Trugannina, and Andrew Rohan, of Hampton Park, were sentenced in the County Court in May and June.

Schmidt and Rohan, who were also sentenced for serious separate offending, were jailed for up to three years and eight months and five years respectively.

Judge Mullaly said Salesui’s lesser role was most similar to Mehrdadian, who was jailed for 13 months with a two-year community corrections order.

However, Salesui warranted a different sentence due to his intellectual disability.

He was jailed for 10 months – of which he had already been served in 317 days of pre-sentence detention.

Salesui was facing possibly further jail at Dandenong Magistrates’ Court hearing the next day, Judge Mullaly noted.