People-smuggling Mr Big jailedWest Australian
By Roy Gibson
30 January 2004
A MR Big in the people- smuggling business was jailed for a total of 12 years yesterday for organising the entry into Australia more than 1500 desperate boat people.
The sentence was imposed on 33-year-old Keis Abd Rahim Asfoor by District Court judge Shauna Deane who issued a warning to other would-be people smugglers that they would be dealt with firmly under Australian law.
After a hectic two years in Indonesia organising boats, gathering crews, accommodating and moving customers to departure points and collecting their money, Asfoor decided it was time for a change and flew into Australia on a false passport.
But he never stepped out of Perth Airport. The authorities knew all about him and were waiting to pounce.
After a seven-week trial late last year, a District Court jury found Asfoor guilty on 12 charges of people smuggling in relating to 12 separate boatloads of people. The boats - carrying a total of 1512 people - left Indonesia for Ashmore Reef between 1999 and 2001.
Judge Deane imposed a minimum penalty of eight years to be served before possible release which, in Asfoor's case, means deportation. The sentence begins from October 2001 when he was arrested in Perth.
Asfoor, whose parents were Palestinian refugees, was born in Iraq. After an unstable upbringing and deprived of many fundamental rights, he fled into Jordan when he was in his 20s and then on to Indonesia.
Defence lawyer Justine Fisher suggested that Asfoor was just one of many who helped in the people smuggling business. He was "well meaning" and there was no evidence that he had gathered considerable wealth or assets.
However, this was rejected by Judge Deane, who told Asfoor: "The degree of planning is evidence of a sophisticated business enterprise and you were at the very heart of it.
"There is no evidence you were answering to a higher authority.
"You were engaged in a highly illegal activity and were not doing so on humanitarian grounds. The stories of each of the passenger witnesses was truly sad. You played on those emotions for financial gain."
She said Asfoor sent desperate people - most from Iran or Iraq - on a perilous voyage on sub-standard vessels, knowing that when they reached Australia they faced certain detention and likely deportation. Yet he assured one of the passengers that it would be a "golden trip".
"The issue of people smuggling has been the subject of torrid debate in sections of our community for some time," Judge Deane said.