People smuggler paid thousands

By Heather Quinlan
November 4, 2004

ASYLUM seekers paid an alleged kingpin of the international people smuggling trade thousands of dollars to sneak them into Australia, a Perth court was told yesterday.

An associate of Hasan Ayoub, on trial at Western Australia's District Court on seven charges of people smuggling, told how he witnessed desperate asylum seekers hand over thousands of US dollars at the Santera hotel in Basar Baru Jakarta in March and April 2001.

The associate, a prosecution witness whose identity has been suppressed, told the court he counted $US15,000 ($20,115) in payments from just one transaction before handing the money to Ayoub, who had a similar amounts in his own bag.

Ayoub, a Pakistani also known as Naeem Ahamad Chaudry, is alleged to have been a so-called people smuggling "snakehead".

He is accused of masterminding the operation to bring almost 400 asylum seekers from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in two boats from Indonesia to Australia in 2001.

The court was told he charged about $US2000 ($2682) for each person trying to buy illegal passage to Australia.

The first boat landed on Christmas Island on March 25, 2001, and the second arrived almost a month later on April 22, prosecutor Jeffery Scholz told the court.

Ayoub's associate, who appeared yesterday as a prosecution witness, described his role working for Ayoub in Indonesia.

It included finding hotels for the asylum seekers, buying food and water for the boat trips and accepting deposit payments for the illegal trips.

He also claimed to have assisted Ayoub in stamping asylum seekers' passports with false visa imprints and entry/exit dates.

The protected witness said he first worked for Ayoub in March 2001, following a videotaped meeting at a McDonald's restaurant in Jakarta.

The court was shown almost 10 minutes of video footage, which was shot from outside the restaurant.

The witness identified himself, a friend and Ayoub at the meeting, in which they conversed in English.

The hearing continues today.



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