Third man named as smuggler

The Weekend Australian
By Ian Gerard, David King
29 November 2003

A PERTH kebab shop owner is the third Turkish-born Australian alleged to be part of a people-smuggling ring operating out of three countries. Hasan Demirci is alleged to have flown to Turkey with ex-Sydney man Mehmet Seriban in 1998 and organised the illegal transportation of a number of mainly Kurdish asylum-seekers to Australia.

Seriban, who is believed to live in Indonesia, is part of an international people- smuggling ring with operations in Perth, Sydney, Jakarta and a number of cities in eastern Turkey.

Sydney man Siyami Gecer, 44, was one of 11 Turkish asylum-seekers who arrived in Australia by boat in December 1998, having allegedly paid Mr Demirci and Seriban $US5000 ($6921). Scared for his life in Turkey, Mr Gecer said he left his family behind and fled the Turkish town of Gaziantep.

He said that a small group of asylum-seekers met Seriban and Mr Demirci in the smuggler's home town of Adiyaman in southeastern Turkey.

After paying the smugglers, the asylum-seekers flew to Jakarta where they were allegedly met by Seriban, before making the difficult, dangerous journey to Australia.

Allegedly smuggled on the same boat was Sydney kebab shop owner Ali Cetin, who was linked this week to a boatload of 14 Kurdish Turks who attempted to land at Melville Island earlier this month.

The Sydney flat of Mr Cetin, who has denied being involved in people-smuggling operations, was raided yesterday.

Australian Federal Police officers took travel documents, bank records and other documents in a four-hour search.

Some of the 14 Turkish Kurd boatpeople have accused Mr Cetin of taking almost $30,000 to arrange their passage to Australia.

Also on the 1998 boat was Ali Demirci, the brother of the Perth kebab shop owner.

The Demirci brothers have also been accused of contacting Turkish asylum-seekers who have been granted refuge in Australia, threatening them if they didn't give them more money.

When The Weekend Australian contacted Hasan Demirci at his kebab shop in a northern Perth suburb, he was adamant he had never been involved in people-smuggling but that he knew people who had.

He confirmed he had a brother, Ali, and that he knew Seriban and Mr Cetin, but said he was not part of a people-smuggling racket.

'I don't know about this business,' he said. 'This Mehmet ... he's doing this job, but I never doing this job.

'It's just Mehmet. He brings these people. Still he's doing it, still he's there in Indonesia, he is very bad guy.'

Mr Demirci is Kurdish and arrived in Australia in 1994 as a refugee. His wife and two children later joined him.

'I came to this country for a new life, for my wife and for my kids. I work like a horse.'

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