People smuggler convicted in Perth court

AAP November 22, 2004 - 8:04PM

A Pakistani man on trial for masterminding an operation to bring almost 400 asylum seekers to Australia has been convicted of people smuggling.

Following a trial in Western Australia's District Court lasting more than three weeks, a jury took two hours to return two guilty verdicts against Hasan Ayoub.

Ayoub was extradited from Thailand in July 2003 to face lead charges of facilitating the bringing to Australia a group of five or more non-citizens.

He faces a maximum jail term of 20 years when he is sentenced on December 16.

During the trial, an associate of Ayoub, whose identity was suppressed, 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, who gave evidence for the prosecution, said he counted $US15,000 ($A20,115) in payments from just one transaction before handing the money to Ayoub, who had a similar amounts in his own bag.

The court was told Ayoub - also known as Naeem Ahamad Chaudry - was a so-called people smuggling "snakehead".

He was accused of masterminding the operation to bring the 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 $US2,000 ($A2,682) 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 told the court that in addition to accepting deposit payments for the illegal trips, he found hotels for the asylum seekers and bought food and water for the boat trips.

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

2004 AAP

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