Merchant of Briny Death

Northern Territory News
SAT 11 JUN 2005

Source: wire

WHEN the Yambuck safely ran aground on Christmas Island in August 2001, people smuggling boss Abu Quassey got the free advertising he was hoping for.

Competition among smugglers in Indonesia was tight at the time, and a boat that arrived at its destination with 147 asylum seekers was all the promotional material a smuggler needed.

Prosecutors said Quassey was subsequently lauded by his assistant Khaleed Shnayf Daoed, 37, as the 'best' and 'cheapest' in town and Quassey's success was posted on the internet.

It was a glowing reference for Quassey's work and many Iraqi refugees, looking for cheap passage to Australia, found it hard to pass up. Another boat, the SIEV X (suspected illegal entry vessel), was organised, this time for 400 people.

Daoed assured the would-be asylum seekers the route was safe and the boat was well equipped. But the boat's engine failed in Indonesian waters, only a day after the trip began, causing it to capsize, killing 353. Forty five were rescued and taken back to Indonesia.

Daoed's role as Quassey's trusted assistant in the organisation of the SIEV X and Yambuck journeys turned out to be a costly one. He was charged with two counts of people smuggling and extradited from Sweden to face trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court.

A jury this week found him guilty on one charge of people smuggling and he will be sentenced later this month with the offence carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years. For his part, Quassey was convicted in Egypt of death through negligence and sentenced to seven years' jail.

In the course of Daoed's trial, 18 passengers -- four from the Yambuck and 14 from the SIEV X -- -- were produced to support the prosecution's claim Daoed played a key, if secondary, role in organising the voyages. In its opening address, the prosecution painted a picture of a well-worn smuggling route from the Persian Gulf to Indonesia. It was common knowledge in 2001, prosecutor Glenn Rice said, if Iraqis flew to Malaysia they could find a smuggler at Kuala Lumpur airport who would take them to Indonesia.

Sadeq Al-Abodie, now in Finland, said he, his wife and daughter left Iran for Malaysia in July 2001 and met up with Daoed. He told the court he paid $A1300 for a seat on the boat for himself and his wife. Other witnesses testified Quassey and his smuggling aides were not operating in isolation, with some implicating the Indonesian Coastguard and police in the smuggling process.

Iraqi refugee Karim Al-Saaedy testified he was introduced to the chief of the Sumatran Coast Guard and was assured by Quassey the police were also on their side.

The defence argued Daoed's role in Indonesia was an innocuous one and he was merely playing the part of translator for the asylum seekers. Daoed even took the stand himself to claim he merely someone who helped find accommodation.

In the end the evidence did more than just deliver a verdict on Daoed: it brought to light the tragic effects of the racket.

Photo Caption: TOP LEFT: Iraqi-born Ali Sobi who now lives in Sydney ... lost his wife and three children in the SIEV-X disaster on October 19, 2001 ABOVE: Dramatic rescue ... RAN personnel rescue asylum seekers from another Indonesian vessel, the SIEV-4, as it sank in the Indian Ocean on October 10, 2001. This became linked to the `children overboard' saga

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