In­done­sian po­lice claim Aus­tralia bribed peo­ple-smug­glers: re­ports

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

In­done­sian po­lice in­sist Aus­tralian author­i­ties paid the crew of a peo­ple-smug­gling boat US$31,000 to turn back, dis­play­ing thou­sands of U.S. dol­lars as proof, re­ports said Wed­nes­day.

West Ti­mor po­lice also claim that the 65 asy­lum-seek­ers and six In­done­sian crew were placed onto two wooden boats for the re­turn trip, with one run­ning out of fuel and the other crash­ing on a reef be­fore mak­ing land.

“We have given you the ev­i­dence,” Gen­eral En­dang Sun­jaya told the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald, which ran a front page im­age of him dis­play­ing a pho­to­graph of US$100 notes.

“It’s now up to you and other or­ga­ni­za­tions to de­mand an an­swer from the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment.”

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott is fac­ing in­tense pres­sure over the al­leged pay­ments, which he has re­fused to con­firm or deny, say­ing he does not com­ment on op­er­a­tional mat­ters.

Se­nior gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son said he did not feel the need to re­spond to the al­le­ga­tions.

“We’ve al­ways done things law­fully and we will con­tinue to do that,” the for­mer immigration min­is­ter said.

But In­done­sia has pushed for an­swers, with Vice Pres­i­dent Jusuf Kalla warn­ing Mon­day that pay­ing peo­ple-smug­glers would amount to “bribery.”

Re­ports on Wed­nes­day said that the peo­ple-smug­gling boat at the cen­ter of the al­le­ga­tions left West Java for New Zealand in early May car­ry­ing 65 mostly Sri Lankan asy­lum-seek­ers.

The Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion said ac­cord­ing to the In­done­sian po­lice’s ini­tial find­ings, the boat was in­ter­cepted twice by Aus­tralian author­i­ties.

The first time they were warned not to cross into Aus­tralian wa­ters but were al­lowed to con­tinue on their way.

The sec­ond time they were de­tained, with the In­done­sian cap­tain Yo­ha­nis Hu­mi­ang al­legedly taken on­board an Aus­tralian Cus­toms ship and told his boat was not in good enough con­di­tion to reach New Zealand.

Ac­cord­ing to the po­lice find­ings, a deal was then struck un­der which the asy­lum- seeker boat would re­turn to In­done­sia, with the cap­tain paid US$6,000 and the five crew US$5,000 each, the ABC said.

Af­ter be­ing an­chored at Aus­tralia’s Ash­more Reef for two days, the 65 asy­lum-seek­ers were al­legedly placed in two other wooden boats, along with three In­done­sian crew in each, life-jack­ets, food, a map and di­rec­tions to In­done­sia’s Rote Is­land, the ABC said.

But ap­proach­ing the is­land, about eight hours away, one boat ran out of fuel — so all 71 peo­ple ended up on the other ves­sel, which later ran aground near the is­land off West Ti­mor.

Vil­lagers helped res­cue the asy­lum-seek­ers and no­ti­fied the In­done­sian po­lice, lead­ing to the ar­rest of the six crew who re­main in cus­tody af­ter ques­tion­ing, re­ports said.

“We be­lieve the pay­ments hap­pened,” En­dang told the Her­ald. “They all said the same thing: they were paid by Aus­tralian of­fi­cials to re­turn to In­done­sia.”

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