Smuggler paid scout for boats, court told
By Simone Pitsis
7 November 2003

A PALESTINIAN man accused of leading a major people-smuggling operation funded plane trips for a scout to locate appropriate vessels, the Perth District Court heard yesterday.

With the assistance of an Indonesian interpreter, chief crown witness Maidan Abdul Syaid told the court he had been employed by Keis Abd Al Rahim Asfoor to buy between 35 and 40 boats and repair and equip them in preparation for transporting up to 300 asylum-seekers.

Mr Syaid told the court, Mr Asfoor -- whom he called Mr Keis -- had funded all of his plane trips around Indonesia looking for suitable vessels and would either give him money directly for any purchases and repairs or reimburse his bank account.

After Mr Syaid bought the vessel Cahaua Rejeki for about 100 million rupiah, or $16,500, he said he was told by Mr Asfoor it would be transporting at least 120 people.

Once the boats were ready to sail, Mr Syaid would call Mr Asfoor who would arrange for the passengers to be driven to a small harbour, east of Lambok.

Mr Asfoor faces a 20-year jail term if found guilty of heading an Indonesian-based people-trafficking syndicate that authorities allege brought 1698 asylum-seekers to Australia between July 1999 and September 2001.

It is understood the federal Director of Public Prosecutions has funded Mr Syaid's flight to Australia as well as his hotel accommodation during the trial.

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