Friday August 30 2013
– Australia’s largest people smuggling strike force yesterday arrested and charged five kingpin smugglers in a major police operation.
Federal police officers swooped on three Aghfanis, aged 33, 34 and 40, a Pakistani, 36, and an Iranian, 21, and charged them with people smuggling and providing false information.
Four of the five arrived on asylum seeker boats in the past year, with three of the men living in immigration detention centres.
The immigration department and the AFP declined to say where the fourth boat arrival was living and whether he had slipped through checks posing as an asylum seeker.
All five men appeared in courts across the country yesterday after search warrants were executed in Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia and NSW.
They allegedly belonged to syndicates that were responsible for planning and recruiting passengers for 132 asylum-seeker boats that had reached Australia.
The AFP operation involved more than 100 investigators.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Steve Lancaster said three search warrants wee carried out in detention facilities, but said the men were not operating from the centres. He warned more arrests would follow.
“These people were major players in the syndicates. Those who have not been picked up in the first scoop today, that does not mean you should sleep well tonight,” he said.
An immigration department spokeswoman said those charged who were currently in detention would not be released into the community.
“Unauthorised maritime arrivals who have been given the privilege of living in the community on bridging visas while their cases are being assessed, do so on the condition that they do not engage in criminal behaviour,” she said.
The arrests take the number of people arrested on people smuggling charges since 2009 to 26.
– Patrick Lion