Minister draws up smuggler hit list
By Megan Saunders
The Australian
28 August 2002

AUSTRALIAN authorities have set their sights on extraditing a number of key people-smuggling operators from the Asian region, buoyed by this week's Thai court order that alleged kingpin Hasan Ayoub be tried in an Australian court.

Mr Ayoub will be the first alleged major operator to be extradited, pending an appeal. Justice Minister Chris Ellison said yesterday 'a number of people of interest' were being pursued.

Among them is Ali Jenabi who will also face a Bangkok court. A date has yet to be set. He is wanted by Australian authorities on 18 people-smuggling charges that carry prison terms of up to 20 years under toughened laws passed by the Howard Government.

'Again we have had great co-operation from the Thai authorities on that matter,' Senator Ellison said.

The man alleged to be behind the disastrous Siev X vessel, which foundered off the Java coastline drowning 353 asylum-seekers, Abu Quassey, is also being sought by Australian police.

Senator Ellison said three warrants were out for his arrest in relation to people-smuggling offences.

Mr Quassey is in the custody of Indonesian police and is being tried in Indonesia for immigration offences.

'We are liaising with Indonesian authorities in relation to Mr Abu Quassey and we have received great co-operation from Indonesian authorities,' Senator Ellison said.

'We are very keen to have Mr Quassey front an Australian court to answer those three charges.'

Australia has never successfully extradited a smuggler from Indonesia, which has no laws against people-smuggling.

But Howard government officials hope progress will be made on the issue at a regional conference in Malaysia next month, following the Bali people-smuggling conference last February.

Indonesia is drafting legislation that will make people-smuggling an offence. Once dual criminality can be established with Australia, the extradition laws can operate.

Mr Ayoub said he would appeal against Monday's decision in Bangkok Criminal Court that he be extradited to face a potential 20-year jail term on 13 charges under the Migration Act.

It is alleged he organised two boatloads of 200 people each from Jakarta between December 2000 and April 2001 and was caught after a boat carrying 248 people was intercepted leaving Cambodia last year.

Welcoming the outcome, Opposition justice spokesman Daryl Melham said the Ayoub decision highlighted the importance of co-operation with the region.

'It's practical law enforcement co-operation, not political grandstanding that is going to get results,' Mr Melham said.

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