'Mr Big' of Boat People Nabbed
20 December 2001
Pakistani faces extradition for people smuggling
THAI authorities have arrested an alleged Mr Big of people- smuggling after Australia asked for him to be held for extradition.
Pakistani Hasan Ayoub will be charged with organising two boat- loads of illegal immigrants from Indonesia to Australia. Australian authorities are believed to be investigating whether he h&s been involved in other people smuggling operations.
Justice and Customs Minister Chris Ellison said Mr Ayoub's arrest was a breakthrough.
He would not reveal whether others were suspected of being involved.
'We believe that Mr Ayoub is a key figure in people smuggling in the region,' he said. 'We cer- tainly believe that we have a strong basis to seek his extradition and his prosecution.'
Senator Ellison said the arrest was the result of an investigation by the joint Australian Federal Police and Department of lmmigration and Multicultural Affairs people smuggling team.
Mr Ayoub had been detained earlier in Cambodia on an unrelated matter. He travelled to Bangkok on his release. Requests through Interpol for his provisional arrest saw authorities swoop on him when he arrived in the Thai capital.
The Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions will allege Mr Ayoub was responsible for about 400 illegal immigrants arriving in Australia between December last year and April.
'This sends a very clear message to people smugglers overseas that there is a will in the region to stop people smuggling,' Senator Ellison said.
'If you are engaged in people smuggling you will be caught and you will be convicted.'
He said Australian authorities had two months in which to formally request Mr Ayoub's extradition. He faces a maximum of 20 years in jail if convicted of people smuggling.
'The nationality of people smugglers is really something that can vary and it's a question of criminal syndicates that are operating ruthless organisations in regards to people smuggling with little regard for life,' Senator Ellison said.
'We have our transnational crime conference in lndonesia in February and I believe that will do a lot to enhance cooperation in the region.'
In October,, Palestinian Kais Abdul Al Rahim Asfoor, 31, was arrested at Perth Airport. He is accused of organising 17 boats to carry 1698 illegal immigrants to the remote Australian territory of Ashmore Reef, 610km north of Broome.