Smugglers' Paradise-Australia

Four Corners
Reporter: Sarah Ferguson
Monday 4 June 2012

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: It's the heart of Sydney. Money is discussed, phone calls are made, a deal is done to smuggle asylum seekers to Australia.

HUSSAIN NASIR, IRAQI REFUGEE: There is many, many smugglers or agents they enter Australia, and now they live in Australia.

KERRY O'BRIEN: The Australian connection in the lucrative and unconscionable world of people smuggling. Welcome to Four Corners. From the point of view of the people who profit from smuggling people to Australia, 2012 so far has been a boom year. In May alone, 1,176 arrived here by boat, representing millions of dollars in revenue to people smugglers. Whatever the motives of the asylum-seekers themselves, don't be in any doubt about what's driving the smugglers. They're clever, they're ruthless, and they have blood on their hands. For years, we've been hearing about their operations in Indonesia and elsewhere on the smugglers' route. The real shock of tonight's story is that they have now established a flourishing nucleus in Australia, to cash in on those who have been accepted as refugees here, and are now prepared to pay to have other family members smuggled in from their home countries. Some of those family members have paid the ultimate price. As we will reveal tonight, one mastermind of this illicit trade actually smuggled himself into Australia, passing himself off as an asylum seeker in order to strengthen the Australian connection. He then plied his deadly trade within a stone's throw of all those agencies who are supposed to be stamping out people smuggling. The revelations in this investigation from Sarah Ferguson, spread across three countries, are deeply embarrassing for the Federal Government and its agencies. It begins in Indonesia.

SARAH FERGUSON, REPORTER: The crowded port area of North Jakarta has been the departure point for thousands of asylum seekers heading for Australia.

On November 14th, 2010 another fishing boat waited off the coast for its passengers. 97 of them would board the vessel that night: men, women and young children, all doomed to disappear on the empty ocean.

ABU MUHAMMED (subtitle): They were afraid and feeling anxious, really suffering.

SARAH FERGUSON: No-one knows the name of the lost boat. No-one reported it missing. The people smugglers who sent the boat lied about the loss to collect final payments from the relatives.

AZITA: We rang him back and said, "We've paid our money" and he didn't, he didn't call us back anymore. He said, "Well, that was it. He don't know us and we don't know you".

SARAH FERGUSON: While reconstructing the journey of this lost boat, we uncovered evidence of how the people smuggling networks in Indonesia have spread to Australia. A discovery that would lead us to one of the most powerful smugglers now based here in Australia.

The story of the lost boat begins at Ancol, where the smugglers ordered the passengers off the bus.

ABU MUHAMMED (subtitle): They took their money and left them with nothing, just themselves and the clothes they were wearing.

SARAH FERGUSON: Abu Mohammad was supposed to go with them, but at the last minute he changed his mind.

ABU MUHAMMED (subtitle): I have never felt like that in my life. Never. It was as if someone was telling me, "Don't go, stay here. Something is not right".

SARAH FERGUSON: In Cologne, Germany, Shafiqa got a call from her brother Abdul, one of the passengers.

SHAFIQA (subtitle): He said, "Once we're on the boat, we have to hand in our mobiles. I'm only allowed to call once from the smuggler's phone".

SARAH FERGUSON: In Melbourne, Anita got a call from her fianc Iranian Mohammad Rezaie.

ANITA: He rang me and he said, "See you soon and I will come to you soon."

SARAH FERGUSON: 24-year-old Mohammed had left Iran the day after his sister's wedding - he and Anita planned to marry when he reached Australia.

ANITA: I said, "Good luck; make sure you just eat something before you go".

SARAH FERGUSON: Yahia Al Kazami was waiting in Melbourne for his brother Ayad, Ayad's wife and their two daughters - Hiba and Huda.

(to Yahia Al Kazami) Were you excited to think that they would come to Australia; you would see them living here with you?

YAHIA AL KAZAMI (subtitle): Everyone would wish his brother to come.

SARAH FERGUSON: On a trip back to Iran, Al Kazami filmed his brother Ayad and his family saying goodbye before they left on their fatal journey to Australia.

AYAD, BROTHER OF YAHIA AL KAZAMI (subtitle): Bye bye, straight to Australia, you won't see me anymore!

SARAH FERGUSON: From Iran, the family flew legally to Malaysia where the people smuggler arranged false passports to get them to Indonesia.

YAHIA AL KAZAMI (subtitle): He took $10,000 and made Omani passports for them. And they used the Omani passport to fly from Malaysia to Indonesia.

SARAH FERGUSON: At home in Sydney, Karim Hadad's mobile rang.

KARIM HADDAD: He call me, Abu Ali called me.

SARAH FERGUSON: The call was from the people smuggler who organized the trip: Abu Ali al Kuwaiti. He was calling to reassure Karim about his brother - one of the passengers.

KARIM HADDAD: He said, "Your brother in my eyes, they are okay - they will arrive to Australia by three... three or four days maximum".

SARAH FERGUSON: Karim's brother Ahmed had travelled from Kuwait. He needed help on the boat because he was almost blind.

(to Karim Haddad) Why did the smuggler call you?

KARIM HADDAD: I don't know. Maybe, maybe my brother give him my mobile number or my... maybe my brother, he's afraid from inside.

SARAH FERGUSON: By the time the passengers boarded the boat, night had fallen. 97 passengers had been recruited mostly from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan by a network of agents working for Abu Ali al Kuwaiti and another smuggler.

In the same year, 2010, Four Corners had been in Indonesia tracking down Abu Ali al Kuwaiti. Using a hidden camera we filmed Abu Ali al Kuwaiti in a restaurant in Jakarta.

ABU ALI AL KUWAITI (2010, subtitle): Don't worry about it. I swear by the Kaba, when the boat leaves I swear to God you'll sit in like its five star. Whatever you want, it's got it.

SARAH FERGUSON: At that time the smuggler was recruiting passengers and organizing false passports to bring others who were waiting in Malaysia.

ABU ALI AL KUWAITI (2010, subtitle): From every one of them I want a photo, a copy of their passport and US $2000 each. Then in a week or 10 days, I'll give them a new Iranian passport with an entry permit.

SARAH FERGUSON: The secret filming in 2010 was done for us by an Iraqi refugee, Hussain Nasir. He so hated people smugglers who had twice cheated him that he volunteered to pose as a passenger to meet Abu Ali Al Kuwaiti. Now living in Australia, Hussain was determined to work with us again.

HUSSAIN NASIR: The smugglers, they are of course not Taliban or Al Qaida. They are just a few rats or criminals, and it's very easy to catch them.

SARAH FERGUSON: Abu Ali Al Kuwaiti had gone to Australia by boat himself in 1999. Two years later, he was convicted of people smuggling for his role in sending that boat.

At some point, Abu Ali returned to Indonesia and by 2010 he was back in business in Jakarta, head of one of Indonesia's most powerful smuggling syndicates.

ABU ALI AL KUWAITI (2010): (on the phone) What? Yeah, yeah. Did you check already the money? Come on finish, finish now, what are you waiting.

SARAH FERGUSON: In the restaurant in Jakarta with Abu Ali were other people smugglers, including one involved in sending the boat that crashed on Christmas Island in December 2010.

50 men, women and children died in terror in the huge waves; their wooden boat smashed to pieces on the treacherous rocks around Christmas Island. As we have now discovered, two boats were sent to the bottom of the ocean in the last months of 2010.

In November of that year, the first of those boats - this one doomed to disappear pushed off from the shore. On board in the dark, some of the passengers were allowed to make brief calls to their relatives.

KARIM HADDAD: I said, "Bye, bye", Arabic. That means "God bless you".

SARAH FERGUSON: In Germany, Shafiqa received the last known call from the boat.

SHAFIQA (subtitle): It was noisy actually. The noise of the people: children, people, women, men, I could hear all that. He said, "There's way too many, and there are also many children and old people, there are entire families, at least 100 people all together. But I don't know the exact number." He also wasn't allowed to talk anymore. He had to hand the phone back again.

SARAH FERGUSON: Her brother, Abdul Hai, had left his wife and five children in Afghanistan. He was on his way to join his brother-in-law in the Victorian town of Shepparton.

ABDUL FATEH: They was good person, very good for family, very good for sister, very good for mother; all the time looking after the mother.

SARAH FERGUSON: Three days after the boat left Indonesia, the smugglers agents rang the relatives in Australia to tell them the boat had arrived and to collect their final payments.

KARIM HADDAD: They said, "Yes, the boat arrive. But it's on the sea now so maybe after four or six hours they bring the Navy... Australian Navy bring it to Christmas Island."

ANITA: I was so happy that day, I walked a lot, I didn't know how... like what to do, it was so exciting.

SARAH FERGUSON: Anita believed she would soon see her Iranian fiancMohammad Rezaie.

ANITA: He said, "Congratulation, your passenger arrived in Australia, he's in Christmas Island." And that's it, just, "Send me money".

SARAH FERGUSON: Send me my money?


SARAH FERGUSON: Her sister Azita was given the details.

AZITA: "You guys have to pay the rest of the money so I give you the account, the person who is in Iran so you can pay to that person and they will transfer to us."

SARAH FERGUSON: In Iran, the fiancapos;s father deposited $6000 into the smuggler's account in the Saderat bank in Tehran.

In Germany, Shafiqa was told to pay the smugglers' agent in Australia.

SHAFIQA (subtitle): Mohammad Ali called me and told me I shouldn't send the money to Indonesia but to Australia.

SARAH FERGUSON: The smugglers' link in Australia was a man named Mehdi Rezaie, living in Noble Park, in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

From Germany, Shafiqa asked her Australian cousin Abdul to pay the money to the agent.

ABDUL FATEH: The money come from Germany, I get from Post Office, and also some money from Afghanistan.

SARAH FERGUSON: The agent had Abdul's number and was pushing him hard to pay up.

ABDUL FATEH: Medhi tell me, "Abdul please pay my money". I say "Okay, I will pay you".

SARAH FERGUSON: Abdul didn't pay the agent directly. Instead, he used this shop in Dandenong - the Bahar Grocery and money exchange. He gave the owner almost $9000 to hand over to Rezaie.

ABDUL FATEH: You pay him money, you get rreceipt for him. He said, "Okay".

SARAH FERGUSON: The owner then passed the money to the agent.

HAKIM SOLIHI (subtitle): Mehdi Rezaie came into my shop this area, maybe time afternoon, come take the Abdul Fateh money. Yeah.

SARAH FERGUSON: And you paid him in cash?

HAKIM SOLIHI (subtitle): Yeah, I paid cash, yeah.

SARAH FERGUSON: Did you know the money was to pay for Abdul Fateh's brother-in-law to come by boat to Australia ?

HAKIM SOLIHI (subtitle): Not sure this, not sure this. No, 100 per cent they tell me this just tell me for paid for Mehdi Rezaie.

SARAH FERGUSON: Mehdi Rezaie counted out $8,850 cash and signed a receipt. It was the last installment of $36,000 for Abdul's brother in law and his two travelling companions.

(to Hakin Solihi) Have you seen Mehdi Rezaie since then? Have you have you ever paid any other money to Mehdi Rezaie ?

HAKIM SOLIHI (subtitle): No, no, no, no, no, no.

SARAH FERGUSON: Just the one time?

HAKIM SOLIHI (subtitle): Just the one time

SARAH FERGUSON: When boats arrive at Christmas Island, the passengers are given access to telephones and the internet to contact their relatives. Weeks passed and none of the 97 people on the boat made contact.

Among the missing were the Iranian family: Ayad and his wife and children. Ayad's brother, Yahia Al Kazami, was so desperate for information so he decided to go and see the smuggler in person in Indonesia.

He and Abu Ali al Kuwait had known each other well in Australia.

By that time, Abu Ali Al Kuwaiti had been picked up by the Indonesians and put in immigration detention.

YAHIA AL KAZAMI (subtitle): He said "Welcome. Come in. Come in, please". And then we went and sat down. And we talked about this subject, my brother's case.

SARAH FERGUSON: Being in detention had little impact on Abu Ali's smuggling business.

YAHIA AL KAZAMI (subtitle): He behaved as if he was at home there. He had no problem, and he had the telephones next to him.

SARAH FERGUSON: Abu Ali had made hundreds of thousands of dollars from the trip. He told Al Kazami there was no reason to refund the money because the passengers were still alive.

YAHIA AL KAZAMI (subtitle): He told me, "This is a political issue. They have detained them in Australia. The Australian government has detained them to create a media fanfare".

SARAH FERGUSON: While collecting their money, the smugglers continued to claim that somehow the lost passengers were being hidden away by the Australian authorities.

We have spoken to more than 70 relatives in countries around the world and none of them have heard from their loved ones. But so desperate are the smugglers to protect their business in Australia, they continue to insist the passengers will turn up.

At the beginning of that year, Abu Ali al Kuwaiti and other top Iraqi smugglers met in Jakarta to discuss expanding their business in Australia.

They planned to send a group of their best operators to Australia by boat.

Two inside sources have confirmed that those at the meeting at the Middle East restaurant in Jalan Jaksa were Abu Ali al Kuwaiti, Mohammad Basrawi and his brother Watheq, Abdullah al Sharifi, and a smuggler known as Captain Emad.

HUSSAIN NASIR: Emad, he's the head of the smugglers, he's the head of the snake. He's very clever, and all the technique of the other smugglers - even we can call them famous smugglers in Indonesia or Malaysia - all of them under his techniques.

SARAH FERGUSON: The plan was an audacious one: to send the agents and a smuggler all on one boat posing as genuine asylum seekers.

The smugglers pooled their expertise: how to avoid detection on the way and to deceive the Australian authorities once they arrived: Border Protection, the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Immigration.

The man they chose to lead the trip was Captain Emad.

On January 10th 2010 Captain Emad's boat was readied to leave from a port in North Java.

MUSTAPHA (subtitle): Of course I'm afraid of Captain Emad because he's a smuggler and I don't want to put myself in danger.

SARAH FERGUSON: Four Corners has spoken to a number of passengers on board. Two were prepared to give interviews. We have disguised their identities to protect them.

Mustapha, as we'll call him, paid Abu Ali al Kuwaiti $8,000 for his place on the boat. We asked him to confirm Abu Ali's identity.

(to Mustapha) So who is that man?

MUSTAPHA (subtitle): Abu Ali al Kuwaiti, the smuggler. I gave him $8,000.

SARAH FERGUSON: And this man, was he on your boat?

MUSTAPHA (subtitle): This is Captain Emad who put us on the boat. He drove the boat. He was in charge of the boat.

SARAH FERGUSON: When Mustapha and the other paying passengers were ferried to the boat, Captain Emad - also known as Abu Khalid - and his hand-picked agents were already onboard.

(to Mustapha) Who was there?

MUSTAPHA (subtitle): Captain Emad is the one who met us at the boat. Also Abdullah the Yemeni and Muhammad.

RAHIM (subtitle): When the boat took off with us on it and the Indonesian was driving, Abu Khalid (Capt Emad) was with him and Abdullah.

SARAH FERGUSON: Yemeni Abdullah Al Sharifi had worked closely with Captain Emad for years. Throughout the journey, Emad and his confederates kept apart from the other passengers.

MUSTAPHA (subtitle): No one else could get close to him. No one knew him - only these people, chatting and drinking tea with him.

SARAH FERGUSON: On the second night of the voyage, the situation on board suddenly changed.

RAHIM (subtitle): I was asleep at the time, but I heard someone jump in the water.

MUSTAPHA (subtitle): The Indonesian put on his life jacket, threw a big drum into the water, took his radio and jumped in the water.

SARAH FERGUSON: The passengers saw another fishing boat waiting to pick him up.

MUSTAPHA (subtitle): After the Indonesian had gone, Abu Khalid, Captain Emad took over the boat, the food, the driving, and the equipment.

SARAH FERGUSON: It was all pre-planned. Captain Emad was a Navy-trained ship captain who had spent years driving container ships in the Middle East and Asia. He was more than capable of navigating the boat to Australia.

MUSTAPHA (subtitle): He had a map and a compass and he was studying the map using the compass to plot the right course.

SARAH FERGUSON: As they approached Christmas Island, Captain Emad stopped the boat.

RAHIM (subtitle): Captain Emad threw his equipment, the satellite phone into the sea.

SARAH FERGUSON: His next move was to summon the Australian Navy.

MUSTAPHA (subtitle): He had flares wrapped up in a bag. He took one out and lit it with the lighter and they were going off one by one. It lit up everything, even the water.

RAHIM (subtitle): They were beautiful, actually.

MUSTAPHA (subtitle): When the third flare had burnt out the Australian boat arrived.

SARAH FERGUSON: According to Border Protection command, Captain Emad's boat was intercepted at 2:24am on the 13th January 2010 - five nautical miles north of Christmas Island. Border Protection named it Walkerville: suspected illegal entry vessel 96.

SARAH FERGUSON: What did Captain Emad do when the Australians came to your boat?

RAHIM (subtitle): When the Australian officials came after Emad fired the flares, he left the wheel house and went to the back of the boat. He was trying cover up that he was in charge.

SARAH FERGUSON: The authorities certainly didn't uncover his deception. The boat was listed as having 43 passengers and no crew.

Once on Christmas Island Captain Emad's plan to become an Australian resident continued without a hitch.

He had brought his daughter- in-law and her young child with him on the boat, so they were moved to the family compound to await interviews with the Department of Immigration.

Four Corners understands the name he used to enter Australia was Ali al Abassi.

Only three months later, on the 20th April, the Department of Immigration gave the smuggler Captain Emad a protection visa and Australian residence. He was one of the first passengers on the boat to be released from detention.

MUSTAPHA (subtitle): I was surprised, of course because he spent the least time in the camp, and he's a smuggler, with history. And those who were with him and had a history of smuggling get out in a short time - two and a half or three months, While the innocent people, who committed no crime and have done nothing wrong, remained two and a half years or three years in the camp, in detention.

SARAH FERGUSON: We don't know what Captain Emad told the Department of Immigration to convince them that he was a genuine refugee in need of protection. What we do know though is that before he set up shop in Indonesia, he spent a large portion of his life here in Malaysia in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

Businessman Abdul Rachman has known Captain Emad since he first arrived in Malaysia.

(to Abdul Rachman) How long have you known Captain Emad for?


SARAH FERGUSON: You've known him since 1990?

ABDUL RACHMAN: 1990, yeah.

SARAH FERGUSON: More than 20 years ago?


SARAH FERGUSON: In 1990, they shared this house in Kampung Baru, while Captain Emad worked as ship's captain moving freight around Asia.

SARAH FERGUSON: I just want to show you these pictures first of all - who is that?

ABDUL RACHMAN: Captain Emad! But he's now more like old man.

SARAH FERGUSON: He looks like an old man now.

SARAH FERGUSON: We showed him a picture of Emad's agent, the Yemeni Abdullah al Sharif, also known as Abu Mishal.

ABDUL RACHMAN (subtitle): Abu Mishal. Nicely when he's talking.

SARAH FERGUSON: So, a good talker?

ABDUL RACHMAN: Good talker. That's right.

SARAH FERGUSON: Captain Emad went into business with Abdullah in the Arab quarter of Kuala Lumpur, Bokit Bintang.

ABDUL RACHMAN (subtitle): That's the building

SARAH FERGUSON: This one here?

ABDUL RACHMAN: Third floor. Abu Mishal he's broker to catch the people, "You wanna buy wood or something?"

SARAH FERGUSON: That's Abdullah al Sharifi?


SARAH FERGUSON: He was working with him here?


SARAH FERGUSON: What was his business that he did here?


SARAH FERGUSON: Perfume business?

ABDUL RACHMAN: Perfume, wood, wholesaler.

SARAH FERGUSON: Captain Emad's legitimate business in Malaysia was perfume. By 2005 he owned four perfume shops in Kuala Lumpur. We discovered he still owns at least one.

(to Abdul Rachman) Who runs that shop, who owns it?

ABDUL RACHMAN: Ammar, his son. Captain Emad.

SARAH FERGUSON: Captain Emad's son? Okay, So he's still here in Kuala Lumpur?

ABDUL RACHMAN: Still here.

SARAH FERGUSON: And that's his shop.


SARAH FERGUSON: We went to visit Captain's Emad's son.

(to Amar Emad) You're Amar?

AMAR EMAD: Yeah, Amar Emad.

SARAH FERGUSON: So tell me a little bit about the shop; how long have you had it?

AMAR EMAD: Eight years. I'm with my father.


AMAR EMAD: Control by the business, yes.

SARAH FERGUSON: Is your father here too?

AMAR EMAD: Yeah, yeah. My father, now he went to Iraq.


Captain Emad is well known in Bokit Bintang - the other shopkeepers were more open about his whereabouts.

(to Salim) Have you known them for a long time? How long?

SALIM: 20 years.

SARAH FERGUSON: Like Emad's son, Salim is also in the perfume business.

SALIM: Yeah I know very him well, 'cos I know his father.

SARAH FERGUSON: What's his name?

SALIM: Mr Emad

SARAH FERGUSON: Emad, where is he now, is he here?

SALIM: No, he's in Australia.

SARAH FERGUSON: He's in Australia. Why did he go there?

SALIM: I don't know, maybe he got some business there.

SARAH FERGUSON: As we know, Captain Emad didn't go to Australia on business, but as a refugee.

At the monorail is another of Emad's former shops - he owned this one with Abdullah Al Sharifi.

(to Saif) Which other one do you like?

SAIF: This one, Golden

SARAH FERGUSON: Golden, golden

SAIF: Smell it.

SARAH FERGUSON: This one nice, soft.

SARAH FERGUSON: Abdullah's brother Saif now runs the shop.

(to Saif) Expensive?

SAIF: Same price

SARAH FERGUSON: Same price, same price. How many shops did Abdullah have when he was here, one or two or?

SAIF: Three, three.

SARAH FERGUSON: Three shops.

SAIF: Now only this one shop, he give me this one shop

SARAH FERGUSON: Right. So Abdullah had, with Captain Emad, three shops or three shops just Abdullah?

SAIF: Same Captain Emad.

SARAH FERGUSON: With Captain Emad.

SAIF: Yes, yes

SARAH FERGUSON: And where is Captain Emad now? Is he in Kuala Lumpur?

SAIF: No, no, he's in Australia.

SARAH FERGUSON: He went to Australia.

SAIF: Yeah, yeah, Australia, not Malaysia. His whole family, Australia.

SARAH FERGUSON: According to passengers on Emad's boat, in the detention centre in Australia, Abdullah al Sharifi talked openly about his work as a smuggler with captain Emad in Malaysia and Indonesia.

RAHIM (subtitle): He said, "I was with Captain Emad in Malaysia. He brought me here for free and we work together at this smuggling business".

SARAH FERGUSON: So you understood that Abdullah was working with Abu Khalid, with Captain Emad and had been working with him for a long time, is that right - working as a people smugglers' agent?

RAHIM: Yes I'm sure.

SARAH FERGUSON: Four Corners understands there were at least six agents on board Captain Emad's boat. All of them got refugee status and were released from detention to cities across Australia.

Abdullah al Sharifi got his protection visa and Australian residence after nine months. He celebrated his new status with some other passengers from the boat at Sydney Harbour.

Having discovered the Iraqi smuggling boss had successfully relocated to Australia, we turned our attention to finding Captain Emad and his agents.

Working with us, as he had in Indonesia, Iraqi Hussain Nasir was determined to expose the networks operating in his newly adopted country.

HUSSAIN NASIR: In this few years, exactly there is many, many smugglers or agents. They enter Australia, and now they live in Australia.

SARAH FERGUSON: In a cafat Sydney's Central station, with the help of another man, Hussain set up a meeting with agent Mahdi Afsoon. Hussain posed as a relative of family members wanting to come to Australia by boat. We filmed the meeting from a nearby balcony.

HUSSAIN NASIR: Mahdi Afsoon, he's a smuggler, but he was agent for one biggest smuggler in Indonesia. Around two years he worked with him, and his name Mohammad al Basrawi.

SARAH FERGUSON: Mohammad Basrawi was Captain Emad's partner - they sent Afsoon to Australia by boat in 2010. Iranian Afsoon was accepted as a refugee later that year. He told Hussain how many passengers he had brought to Australia since then.

HUSSAIN NASIR: Medhi Afsoon he told me exactly that he bring around three hundred passengers to Australia including his family. And he told me that the last boat he organized before three weeks, two week, or three weeks ago arrived in Australia, and boat was carrying fifty seven passengers, Iraqi and Kurdish, and three crew.

SARAH FERGUSON: He told Hussain the cost of the trip for his relatives would be $11,300 each.

Afsoon rang the smuggler based in Australia about the best way to handle the money. The smuggler he rang was Captain Emad.

HUSSAIN NASIR: He called him and he let me hear his voice and he open a speaker, and he discussed with him about the trip and the passenger and transfer the money. Captain Emad he was very careful about the phone Mahdi Afsoon using, because he asked him in first question what the kind of your mobile phone? It is iPhone? He told him no.

SARAH FERGUSON: The smugglers were careful about the words they used on the phone.

HUSSAIN NASIR: He told him, we have box - meaning passenger - this in smuggler's language. And Captain Emad he ask him about the package, how much. He told him it's too big.

SARAH FERGUSON: Was it clear from that Madhi was saying that there was a trip ready to go soon?

HUSSAIN NASIR: Yeah! He said if you pay today or tomorrow, I'm ready at any time, and we have already trip at fifteen days - maybe two weeks or twenty days there will be move.

SARAH FERGUSON: Captain Emad's caution and cunning have protected his operations since he arrived in Australia, as one of his passengers on his boat confirmed.

(to passenger): Between Basrawi and Abu Ali al Kuwaiti and Capt Emad, which do think is the cleverest, the smartest of those three?


SARAH FERGUSON: They're all smart.

PASSENGER: Some people who look to smuggling are smart.

SARAH FERGUSON: So the big smugglers are...

PASSENGER: Very smart

SARAH FERGUSON: So this guy Captain Emad?

PASSENGER: Emad Abdul Razak Tharmir al Absi.

SARAH FERGUSON: Is he clever guy?

PASSENGER: Yes, clever guy.

SARAH FERGUSON: And a good smuggler?

PASSENGER: (laughs) Yeah, very good.

SARAH FERGUSON: A meeting at this suburban shopping mall in the NSW town of Queanbeyan took us a step closer to finding him.

Abdullah Al Shariffi came here to do a smuggling deal. We agreed to protect the identity of the man he was meeting. Inside, at Michel's Patisserie they sat down to discuss the deal.

HUSSAIN NASIR: Abdullah, he was ready because he have all the details and including the account number of the smuggler agent who responsible to transfer the money from here to Indonesia.

SARAH FERGUSON: Abdullah expected to deposit cash that afternoon.

HUSSAIN NASIR: The man who try to bring his family, he asking Abdullah to give him a receipt to save his money, and Abdullah, he refused to give him the receipt, so the deal stopped.

SARAH FERGUSON: No money changed hands, but the unlikely location a few kilometers from Canberra took us almost to Emad's door.

Smart he may be, but none of us could have imagined he would have had the audacity to base himself in the nation's capital - but that is exactly where we found him and his family: in Canberra.

Captain Emad sent his wife and children to Australia by boat ahead of him in 2009. Using different names to the ones they used in Malaysia and Indonesia, his wife, three adult children and their dependents all got refugee status.

According to members of the family, they claimed their father had died in Iraq.

In the final affront to the Australian system, the adults were all provided with public housing. Emad's wife lives in Kaleen. His daughters in Lynham and Dunlop. His son in Hawker.

At the Ginghalen shopping centre in North Canberra - the successful perfume shop owner and top Iraqi people smuggler was giving every appearance of leading a modest life, supervising the trolleys.

(to Captain Emad) Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, Captain Emad?


SARAH FERGUSON: I'm Sarah Ferguson from the Four Corners television program. I want to talk to you about people smuggling. How long have you been a people smuggler in Australia?

CAPTAIN EMAD: No, no, I'm busy, I'm busy.

SARAH FERGUSON: Captain Emad wouldn't answer any of these questions.

CAPTAIN EMAD: I don't know what you're talking about.

SARAH FERGUSON: I spoke to some of your passengers who came with you on WAL 96 - they told me how you captained the boat. Much better if you can hear me

CAPTAIN EMAD: No, no, please. I have work to do, don't disturb me.

SARAH FERGUSON: So do I, so do I Captain Emad. Perhaps I could come to your house later?

We tried to talk to him one more time in the trolley bay outside.

(to Captain Emad) I know you're busy, but I just have a couple of questions that I'd really like to ask you about your business. Would you very kindly confirm your name, you are Captain Emad?

CAPTAIN EMAD: You are disturbing my work, please!

SARAH FERGUSON: Yes, I'm sorry about that. But if you just take a second. If you just take a second. If you just take a pause, Captain Emad, we can have a little conversation. You won't make me go away. If you just answer a couple of questions, we can leave you in peace to get on with your work. Just tell me about the boat you came to Australia on? Or we can try make an appointment at your house?

Captain Emad disappeared with his trolleys in tow - it was the last we saw of him.

SARAH FERGUSON: By basing their operations in Australia, the smugglers clearly believe they can continue to exploit the market here with impunity, even with the blood of hundreds of dead on their hands.

In Kabul and Tehran and Basra, in Brisbane and Melbourne and Sydney, the relatives of the 97 passengers who disappeared in 2010 are still waiting for the smugglers to tell them what really happened.

YAHIA AL KAZAMI (subtitle): I called him and told him, "Brother, do you have any new information about this family, about my brother, about my brother's wife, about that boat?" He said "They are in Tasmania." He tell me, now in Tasmania.

SARAH FERGUSON: A few weeks ago some of the relatives in Melbourne went back to the smugglers agent to ask him for news - they recorded the meeting.

MEHDI REZAIE: When people are sitting in a ship, in a boat when you move 50 kilometres, the boat belongs to Allah. Nobody can give you guarantee.

SARAH FERGUSON: Anita keeps looking for a sign her fiance is alive.

ANITA: Every day, I went out, just go to Facebook, go to his homepage, put in comment, "I miss you, where are you? Just, if you are live, if you are somewhere, just let me know as soon as possible, if you can talk, just come to the Facebook, just, even just put a dot, that I can contact."

SARAH FERGUSON: But, there's been nothing?

ANITA: Nothing, nothing at all.

HUSSAIN NASIR: Everyone defended about the boats, asylum seekers, smugglers; some of them make them heroes. But no-one defended about the women and the children who lost their life in the sea.

SARAH FERGUSON: And as long as the trade here continues to flourish - with willing passengers and smugglers to exploit them - more deaths will surely follow.

KERRY O'BRIEN: One serious question to be posed from tonight's story is this: how is it that one small team from a television program with limited resources can expose the facts and the people revealed tonight, yet governments, with all the resources and expertise at their disposal, seemingly cannot. We invited the Australian Federal Police to give an interview to this program, but they declined.

End of transcript


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