A senior Iraqi politician has become the victim of a prolonged international campaign of intimidation and online extortion.
In dual raids carried out on February 24, police in Australia and Canada arrested four individuals accused of targeting the politician and his family for over a year.
While the identity of the victim has not been officially disclosed, Australian police described him as a “very senior politician” who has dual Australian and Iraqi citizenship and who “spends almost all of his time in Iraq.”
An investigation was launched after a series of attacks on a residence in western Sydney and multiple online extortion attempts demanding $10m. Australian police were able to link the cybercrimes to social media accounts controlled by suspects located in Edmonton, Canada.
The attacks on the Sydney home began in December 2019 when armed assailants broke in, stole money, and assaulted a 16-year-old boy. In the months that followed, a brick was thrown through the window and shots were fired at the house while two adults and three children were at home.
In February 2021, the front porch of the house was set alight late at night and a threatening note left.
Australian police said: “Throughout this time, the family received various demands for money and threats to their welfare via social media and letters left at their home.”
Edmonton police arrested 33-year-old Ghazi Shanta and 32-year-old Diana Kadri and charged both individuals with extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion.
Two men—Luminous Touto, 24, and Zigalo Sogora, 22—were arrested in Sydney after allegedly being hired by Shanta and Kadri to attack the MP and his family.
“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,” said Phil Hawkins of the Edmonton force’s Cyber Crime Investigations Unit.
Australian media have reported the victim as Ahmed Al-Asadi—the spokesperson for the Fatah alliance in Iraq’s Parliament.
“The safest place for someone is their home, and for us it was the most dangerous place for a while,” Al-Asadi’s daughter Rusul Al-Asadi told ABC News.
“The attacks have really taken their toll on my mum. She is very stressed and is not her old, bubbly self.”