The first man to be charged with the murder of Sydney father Taha Sabbagh was “completely complicit” in the brazen hit outside a martial arts gym in Sydney’s south-west last month, although he is not accused of pulling the trigger.
Le Nghia “Andy” Pham, 26, was arrested at Sydney Airport’s international terminal on Sunday afternoon as he allegedly attempted to board a flight to Vietnam.
“He bought a ticket to go to Vietnam and what he got was a free trip to the police station,” homicide squad commander Danny Doherty told reporters on Monday. Within hours of arriving at Surry Hills police station, Pham was charged with murder.
Doherty said police believe Sabbagh, 40, was targeted as a result of “some type of dispute” between organised criminal groups.
Sabbagh was shot multiple times after he pulled into the driveway of the Elite Fight Force gym in Sefton shortly after 6.30am on March 2.
Dramatic CCTV footage obtained from a nearby business shows how a gunman arrived in a Mazda 3 and waited in the car until Sabbagh drove into the gym’s car park.
As Sabbagh pulled into a spot, a gunman can be seen exiting his own car and running towards the target, shooting through the front windscreen and driver’s side window.
Doherty said police would allege in court that Pham was “actively involved in the murder of Taha Sabbagh” in a joint criminal enterprise with other people.
Pham is accused of taking at least two people to the Mazda that they would use for the alleged hit, then picking them up in a silver Volkswagen Golf after they ditched the Mazda in nearby Birrong, where it was torched.
“Police will allege that second getaway car was placed, by this 26-year-old man, about a week before, in Birrong.”
The Volkswagen, which had been stolen in January, was driven to Bankstown and later found burnt out in another area, Doherty said.
“We’re not alleging he was the shooter. But what we’re saying, again, from all his actions, he might as well have been,” Doherty alleged. “He was completely complicit.”
Pham, from Fairfield East, allegedly applied for his passport shortly after the shooting, Doherty said, which “obviously raised a flag for us to make sure he wasn’t going to flee the country”.
The precise motive for the alleged murder remains unclear, but Doherty told reporters police were looking at the possibility of Sabbagh being targeted by mistake as a “strong line of inquiry”.
Pham elected not to appear on screen from the cells at Surry Hills police station as prosecutors sought an eight-week adjournment in court on Monday. His lawyer did not apply for bail and it was formally refused.
Inquiries into the alleged murder continue under Strike Force Pemak.
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