Muslim Business Spirit
by Dan Zaremba Â / Militant Islam Monitor
The arrests came as new figures suggested the number of boats stopped by Malaysian authorities is on the increase, adding weight to concerns a crackdown on boatpeople in Indonesia is simply shifting activity to neighbouring Malaysia.
The men, who were due to appear in Shepparton Magistrates Court today, are accused of conspiring to bring 68 asylum seekers — detained in Indonesia last month — to Australia.
AFP Deputy Commissioner Tony Negus said it was “rare” to find Australian-based people-smuggling rings.
“Usually it’s the entrepreneurs in Indonesia who facilitate the passage,” Mr Negus told The Australian.
“But what we’re alleging is these people were moving money around and organising all this from Australia, but also travelled within the region to set it all up.”
Even more extraordinary was the fact that the 64-year-old himself came by boat.
“He’s an Australian citizen now, he came out on a boat in 1999,” Mr Negus said.
“He’s actually an illegal who came here to claim asylum and basically is still around.”
The 21-year-old was charged yesterday with people-smuggling and money-laundering offences. His father was expected to be charged late last night.
Last month, 68 Afghans were arrested by Indonesian police in West Java as they were about to board a boat for Australia.
The arrests triggered a joint investigation by the AFP’s People-Smuggling Strike Team, the Indonesian National Police and Austrac, which resulted in yesterday’s arrests.
People-smugglers traditionally charged between $US5000 ($6500) and $US10,000 a passenger, meaning the sums of money involved were considerable, Mr Negus said.
He said the AFP was also investigating the pair’s alleged links to other people-smuggling ventures.
News of the arrests came as the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency provided figures on the number of boats stopped by Malaysian authorities.
The MMEA Southern Region Commander, First Admiral Che Hassan Jusoh, told The Australian that last year, 259 people — all Indonesians — had been stopped by authorities from leaving Malaysia by boat.
This year, a total of 235 people had been stopped in boats, suggesting Malaysia was on track to exceed last year’s total.
As the numbers change, so does the composition of the passengers, with more than 90 of those on board coming from Pakistan or Afghanistan.
Admiral Jusoh said the last boat was stopped last Thursday. It was carrying 35 people, comprising 10 Indonesians, 13 Pakistanis and 12 Afghans.
Mr Negus said it was entirely possible the crackdown by the AFP and police in Indonesia had forced people-smugglers to launch from Malaysia.
“We’ve seen over the years, where you do crack down really hard on one location, people-smugglers are pretty flexible and entrepreneurial, so they’ll move to somewhere else to run their ventures,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve seen a lot of it yet, but it’s certainly consistent with the way these people operate.”
Mr Negus said the AFP had broadened its people-smuggling activities to include Malaysia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, as well as Indonesia.