People smuggler jailed as deterrent

By Vivienne Oakley
Sunday Times
30 January 2004

A MR Big in the world of people smuggling was yesterday sent to jail for 12 years - a punishment, the judge said, intended to send a message to others engaged in the same business.

After a seven-week trial in Perth District Court, Keis Abd Rahim Asfoor was found guilty of 12 charges of people smuggling relating to the transportation of more than 1500 people to the north coast of Australia.

He was also convicted of coming to Australia on a false Turkish passport.

The 12 boats he arranged - which contained between 66 and 353 people - dumped their human cargo at Ashmore Reef, 610km north of Broome, between July 1999 and September 2001.

Authorities estimate at an average payment of $2000 per passenger, Asfoor and his partner-in-crime collected more than $3 million each.

About 50 witnesses - including dozens who had made the journey across the Timor Sea - told of Asfoor's role in the scheme during the trial.

Evidence was that in Indonesia, he and another man arranged the purchase of boats, stocked the vessels with supplies, gave crew instructions and took money from passengers.

Judge Shauna Deane - who imposed a non-parole period of eight years - said ultimately those people hoped Australia would provide sanctuary and that Asfoor had traded on their fears, sending "desperate individuals on dangerous journeys". "You played a critical and pivotal role in this criminal enterprise," she said.


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