54 Lankan asylums: Indonesia shows proof Australia paid smugglers


Photographs of thousands of US dollars handed to six people smugglers to turn a boat with 65 people, including around 54 Sri Lankans, away from Australia and towards Indonesia, which Indonesian Police say is proof of bribery by Australian officials, have been provided to Fairfax Media.
"We have given you the evidence," said General Endang Sunjaya, the Police Chief of Nusa Tenggara Timur Province. "It's now up to you and other organisations to demand an answer from the Australian Government."
And in a blistering attack, the head of the people smuggling division of Nusa Tenggara Timur province, Ibrahim, said sending 65 asylum seekers back to Indonesia on two boats with just a drum of fuel each was akin to "a suicide mission", asking: "Where is the humanity?"
He said the boat had hit a reef and been stranded off Landu island, and if it had been high tide it would have been too dangerous for the local villagers to rescue the asylum seekers.
In other revelations, the Police officers told Fairfax Media the asylum seeker boat was intercepted by the navy warship HMAS Wollongong and an Australian customs boat in international waters.
However, they say the payments to the six crew allegedly made by an Australian official, Agus, took place on Andika near Greenhill Island in the Northern Territory. This could potentially make the payments subject to Australian law.
General Endang Sunjaya said the six crew members had all sworn under oath they received about $US5000 ($A6460) from an Australian official to return to Indonesia. Their accounts were corroborated by asylum seekers who were separately interrogated.
"We believe the payments happened," said General Endang Sunjaya. "They all said the same thing: they were paid by Australian officials to return to Indonesia."
He stated that the alleged payments could trigger a new kind of crime, where people smuggling syndicates would put fake asylum seekers on a boat in order to extract money from the Australian Government.
"The money is now being kept as evidence that this was not a made-up story," he said, adding that, "This is very unexpected. If it happened in Indonesia it would constitute a bribe."
General Endang Sunjaya said he had now handed the police investigation report to the National Police Headquarters in Jakarta.