A prominent Muslim youth leader who helped young men in his community turn away from drugs and crime has been found guilty of supplying $2 million worth of cocaine.
Fadi Abdul-Rahman once publicly declared that "when you stand before Allah, it's not your macho that will make a difference – not your dollars, not your castles, not your cars".
But the 38-year-old is now facing jail for his role in a drug syndicate that smuggled five kilograms of cocaine into the country in a wooden chess set.
"I find it terrible that someone who had a prominent role would fall from grace like this," said Keysar Trad, of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, on Sunday. "He was working with prison inmates, he was helping them reform – that makes it all the more sad."
The Downing Centre District Court heard last month that Abdul-Rahman and three other men were arrested in mid-2012 when the Australian Federal Police intercepted a suspicious package containing a large wooden chess set.
The court heard that when officers drilled through the plywood base they found four clear plastic bags of cocaine with a combined weight of five kilograms.
Police replaced the cocaine with harmless white powder, reassembled the board and sent an undercover officer posing as a DHL courier to deliver it to the south-west Sydney suburb of Green Valley.
A recording device hidden in the chess set allegedly recorded hours of conversations between those involved in the syndicate, including the moment when Abdul-Rahman and another man, Ahmad Khodr, discovered the device.
"Woah, what the f--- is that? Be careful cuz, it's a tracker," Abdul-Rahman was allegedly recorded saying.
Last Thursday, following a trial in the NSW District Court trial, Abdul-Rahman was found guilty of supplying a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug. He will be sentenced in October.
Khodr was convicted of the same offence, while two other men were found not guilty.
The conviction marks a steep fall from grace for Abdul-Rahman, who had become a spokesman for the emerging generation of moderate Muslim youth trying to address the issues facing their community.
In the mid 2000s, the young man set up a sport-focused youth centre in Lidcombe with former Olympic boxer Hussein Hussein. It was later forced to close down by Auburn council because of planning issues.
He was then among those who publicly called for calm and non-violent action within the Muslim community after the 2005 Cronulla riots, making multiple television and radio appearances including in a highly acclaimed documentary made by Tom Zubrycki.
In 2008, he was selected by the then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, to represent young Muslims at the 2020 Summit.
"I didn't know him well but most of the youth had a lot of respect for him – he brought them together," said Samier Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association. "Some people may say 'here we go again – we can't trust them'.
"They'll say 'this guy tried to be a leader but he was a drug dealer'. They will see the whole community through the same prism.
"But you can't categorise the whole community through the actions of one individual."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Fadi Abdul Rahman pleaded guilty to drug supply. This was not correct. Abdul Rahman was found guilty by a jury. The error was the result of incorrect information being provided by the Supreme Court of NSW.
The story Muslim youth leader Fadi Abdul-Rahman found guilty of drug supply first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.