WA: Accomplice of alleged people smuggling kingpin in court
By Tim Clarke
4 November 2003

PERTH, Nov 4 AAP - The accomplice of a Palestinian man accused of being the kingpin of a people smuggling operation told a Perth court today he was paid just $US750 ($A1,079) to help smuggle thousands of asylum seekers into Australia.

Palestinian Keis Abd Rahim Asfoor, 32, has denied masterminding and bankrolling the operation which transported hundreds of Iraqi and Iranian nationals from Indonesia to Ashmore Reef off the West Australian coast.

In the WA District Court today, Indonesian national Maidan Abdul Syaid told how he was paid six million Indonesian rupiahs in cash by Asfoor in return for organising boats, crews and provisions for the smuggling trips.

He also told the jury Asfoor paid money directly into his bank account to buy between 35 and 40 boats, fuel and food.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mr Syaid continually stressed he was acting under orders from Asfoor, who he knew as Mr Keis.

"He rang me, and asked me to buy a boat and also asked me to look for crew members for the boat. He told me the boat was for immigrant people," Mr Syaid said.

"I was getting them (boats and crew) on orders from Mr Keis. I would not have got them if he did not tell me."

Asfoor, also known as Imam Dogan, is facing 13 charges of people smuggling, with 42 alternative counts naming people he allegedly smuggled into the country between March 1999 and September 2001.

The boatloads of passengers in the charges totalled 1,666 people.

Prosecutors allege Asfoor was paid thousands of US dollars a time by groups of hundreds of asylum seekers, desperate to reach Australia. Up to 353 people at a time would travel from Indonesia, usually Lombok, to Ashmore Reef.

As many as 50 asylum seekers will give evidence at the trial, which has taken more than two years to come to court.

Mr Syaid said that after organising one boatload to leave from Larantuka on the Indonesian island of Flores, he, Asfoor and another man, Hasan Ayoub, travelled to Bali, the court was told.

At a meeting at the Baron Hotel near Kuta beach, Asfoor handed Mr Syaid six million rupiahs in cash, worth around $US750 ($A1,079) at the time, and asked for Mr Syaid's bank account details.

"He said he wanted it to transfer money to buy the boat, to pay for transport for myself, and to buy food for the passengers," Mr Syaid said.

Prosecutor Ron Davies QC earlier told the court Mr Syaid had been given immunity from prosecution so he would give evidence.

Asfoor was captured at Perth international airport in October 2001, when he tried to enter the country on a false Turkish passport in the name of Imam Dogan.

He has pleaded guilty to using a false passport on the day of his arrest.

The trial continues.

AAP tc/sd/apm/br
04-11-03 1744

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