I'm just a good spy, says our man in Timor
4 March 2002
Sydney Morning Herald
The Australian accused of people smuggling is anxious to clear his name, writes Lindsay Murdoch.
Many people in Kupang, the seedy port capital of Indonesian West Timor, thought Kevin Enniss, or 'Mr John' as the Australian was better known, was a people smuggler.
He would drink at the waterfront Teddy's bar with dozens of Afghans and Middle Eastern asylum seekers waiting for boats to take them to Australia. He would throw parties for them at the house he owned in the town. Once, he had 29 Afghans sleeping on his floor for two weeks.
'How could people think anything else?' Mr Enniss says.
'That is what I did for a living. It was my job to know everything that was happening in people smuggling: when the boats were going, who arranged them, who was on them.
'Sure, many people thought I was a people smuggler and I never tried to make them think otherwise. But I am not a people smuggler, nor have I ever been one.'
Two weeks ago the Nine Network's Sunday program accused the 46-year-old of running a people smuggling racket while receiving $25,000 of taxpayers' money as an informant for the Australian Federal Police.
But the one-time Tasmanian ran a secret intelligence network with Indonesian police that stopped hundreds of asylum seekers reaching Australia during 2000 and last year, say senior police in Australia and Indonesia.
The Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, has defended Mr Enniss in a Senate Estimates Committee meeting in Canberra, saying his work saved Australia $22.5 million, the estimated cost of processing and assimilating the 451 asylum seekers he was responsible for stopping.
The identities of Australian informants are always kept secret, but Sunday's revelation that he was one has lifted the lid on what can be dangerous work. At the height of boat departures to Australia, the former Darwin-based fisherman was shot at and smashed in the face with a tyre lever in Kupang. He was almost always accompanied at night by at least two Indonesian intelligence police with whom he worked closely.
During interviews with the Herald in Bali, Mr Enniss produced computer files revealing the identities or telephone numbers of more than 600 people involved in people smuggling in Indonesia, from the heads of six major syndicates to local fixers and boat crews.
Police in Indonesia describe him as an 'encyclopedia' on people smuggling in the country. He has obtained the only photographs of many of the smugglers, some of whom have long criminal records in their own countries.
'The Australian police are handicapped by having to always deal with the Indonesians through official channels,' he says. 'The bureaucracy made it hard for them. But the police in Kupang were genuine in wanting to stop boats going to Australia and to arrest the smugglers. I was able to work with them unofficially every day. We effectively closed down their operation.'
Police investigations in Indonesia launched after the Sunday claims have failed to produce any evidence Mr Enniss arranged boats to take asylum seekers to Australia.
The head of the national police in Kupang, Brigadier-General Jacky Ully, said last Friday 'this guy Kevin was hit by rumour that he was involved in people smuggling. But so far we have not got any evidence that indicates his involvement whatsoever.'
Brigadier-General Gorries Mere, the deputy head of Kupang police during most of the time Mr Enniss lived in the town, also vouched for him during an interview in Jakarta last Friday.
He said Mr Enniss was a valuable source of accurate information on people smuggling.
'You see, government officials, including some police officers, are involved directly or indirectly in many ways in people smuggling business,' he said.
'That's probably why he got himself into trouble. Maybe some officials were looking for him because the information he provided had caused them difficulties and discomfort in carrying their involvement in the smuggling business.'
In the mid-1990s Mr Enniss, bored with operating fishing boats and then running a fish shop in Darwin, decided he wanted the excitement of living in Indonesia, a country he already knew well after marrying a Kupang woman.
He bought two fishing boats, planning to export fish caught off West Timor. He says he was lent a total of $250,000 by two Adelaide-based men. But at the start of 1998 he fell out with the pair, who alleged they had lent him much more and claimed ownership of the boats.
Mr Enniss says his business ambitions collapsed on June 22, 1999, when three or four policemen took him into custody. Eighteen hours later the Adelaide pair lodged complaints relating to ownership of the boats that included fraud, misconduct and stealing. The two were to later accuse Mr Enniss of being a people smuggler on Sunday.
Mr Enniss's boats, his four-wheel-drive vehicle and all the possessions in his house were seized under a court order.
He says it was during the next six months while he was in jail that he befriended three asylum seekers, who gave him information about a people smuggler who owed them money.
Released from jail in December 1999, he telephoned Jakarta-based Australian police, who immediately expressed an interest in the smuggler.
Mr Enniss said he needed the money to survive pending his verdict if found guilty on all charges, he could be sentenced to more than 17 years' jail. He says he found the work interesting as he became more deeply involved.
However, his days as an informant came to an end last September after Kupang newspapers published claims that he was a people smuggler.Mr Enniss says he was forced to leave Kupang because of difficulties with immigration officials, who believed he was a people smuggler, although he has never been deported and is free to come and go on non-work visas.
'I could easily run away. But I have done nothing wrong. My future is Indonesia and I intend to again do business here. The evidence is overwhelming that I am not guilty the verdict cannot go any other way but in my favour.'
As for the people smugglers, he says they are waiting to arrange more boats after a lull in activity during the monsoon season.
But they have run into trouble convincing asylum seekers the door to Australia has not been shut.
Mr Enniss says the best thing Australia did last year was to have the navy start turning the boats back to Indonesia.
'But the smugglers have a strategy to thwart that. In the future when they see an Australian Navy boat they plan to sink their own. The asylum seekers will have to be plucked out of the water. They will then be where they want to be.'