I spied on smuggler, says witness
By Roy Gibson
14 November 2003
CHARTER boat operator Michael Williamson became a Federal police informant after an alleged people smuggler approached him in Indonesia to bring illegal immigrants to Australia.
Mr Williamson told a District Court jury yesterday he had been told there were thousands of people ready and waiting to be smuggled into Australia so it was likely to be profitable work for him.
Encouraged by Federal agents in Jakarta, Mr Williamson met a man he knew only as "Keis" several times over a period of months. When Keis said he wanted to get out of the people-smuggling business, Mr Williamson arranged for a visa for him. They flew into Perth on October 4, 2001.
At Customs they were separated.
"He was led to another area and I have never seen him since," Mr Williamson said. Asked if he could see Keis in court, Mr Williamson pointed to the man in the dock, Palestinian-born Keis Abd Rahim Asfoor, 33.
Mr Asfoor has pleaded not guilty to more than 50 charges of organising or taking part in sending 1698 illegal immigrants on 13 separate boats to Australia between July 1999 and October 2001.
Mr Williamson, 68, who is retired, told the court he operated a charter boat business in Indonesia between 1998 and 2001. In Jakarta, a guest house owner had asked if he was interested in smuggling people into Australia.
He had contacted Federal police in Jakarta and was encouraged to go along with the plan. This led to several meetings and telephone calls with Keis.
Keis offered to pay for any repairs necessary to Mr Williamson's boat and there was talk of being paid $US100,000 for a trip to Broome with eight people from Iraq.
Mr Williamson said that at subsequent meetings Keis had talked about getting out of the people-smuggling business.
"He was worried about getting caught and going into one of the camps - especially Woomera where there were people he seemed to fear," Mr Williamson said.
Keis had produced a false Turkish passport in the name of "Iman Dogan". Mr Williamson had given all the information and documents to Federal police and got a visa for Keis to enter Australia.
Mr Williamson said Keis also said that in an interview in Arabic on SBS radio he had said that "all Australia had to do was send one boat back and the Australian Government would never have a problem with people smuggling again".
The trial continues today.