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How many of the 1500 asylum seeker lives lost at sea since 2001 could have been saved?
Zahra (6), Fatima (7) and Eman (9) - the daughters of Sondos Ismail and Ahmed Alzalimi -  three of the 146 children who lost their lives when the vessel that has become known as SIEVX foundered in international waters en route to Christmas Island on 19 October 2001.
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250,000 Questions

by Marg Hutton
5 December 2011

The one off payment of a quarter of a million dollars made in 2005 to a man allegedly working inside people smuggling syndicates in Indonesia but also acting as an informant for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) at the time SIEV X sank (October 2001) is deeply troubling and raises many questions.

According to Debbie Guest, writing in the Australian last year, the man - lets call him 'Mr S' - approached AFP agents based in our embassy in Jakarta in August 2000 and offered his services as an informant after losing $2,000 to another smuggler who failed to bring him to Australia. For more than 16 months Mr S regularly reported to the embassy and provided information which included smugglers phone numbers, boat movements and passenger numbers while at the same time continuing to work as an assistant to various smugglers operating the Christmas Island smuggling route.

Mr S did not receive payment while working as an informant in Indonesia - this would come later. In 2002 he was assisted by the AFP to come to Australia on a criminal justice visa which did not permit him to work or permanently reside here.

In 2004 Mr S testified as a prosecution witness in the people smuggling trials of Ali Al Jenabi and Hasan Ayoub who were both convicted and sentenced to lengthy jail terms. According to Debbie Guest writing on the 2010 people smuggling trial of Hadi Ahmadi in which Mr S also testified as a witness, the AFP informant had received a payment of $250,000 in 2005 just months after providing evidence in the 2004 Al Jenabi and Ayoub trials. Mr S also reportedly received Australian citizenship and indemnity from prosecution as rewards for his work with the AFP as well as free accomodation from 2002 - 2005.

The dark shadow of the stricken vessel SIEV X, in which 353 asylum seekers lost their lives looms large over this reported history of Mr S. There are good reasons to think that Mr S was connected to the notorious people smuggler Abu Quassey, who organised the tragic SIEV X voyage. Mr S had infiltrated the smuggling networks of Hasan Ayoub and Hadi Ahmadi, both of whom operated the less popular Christmas Island smuggling route, as did Abu Quassey. In 2001 there were only 11 people smuggling voyages that arrived at Christmas Island prior to the sinking of SIEV X. So smugglers who operated this route were a very small coterie. In 2001 Indonesian Deputy Head of Police Public Relations, Brigadier General Edward Aritonang reported the arrest of Hadi Ahmadi as a member of Abu Quassey's people smuggling syndicate and later both smugglers would be charged separately in different countries with organising the same vessel - 'Yambuk'. So given that Mr S was reporting to the AFP on Hadi Ahmadi, it appears likely that he was also reporting on Abu Quassey.

During the 2004 Ayoub trial an AFP agent testified that an unnamed man who also gave evidence at the trial - quite probably Mr S - reported to him on a daily basis at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta about people smuggling activities during 2001.

We know that Abu Quassey's people smuggling network had been penetrated by Australian intelligence in the months leading up to the departure of SIEV X as more than 43 reports on the smuggler were received between August and 18 October 2001 as detailed in the Defence Internal Review of Intelligence pertaining to SIEV X that was presented in evidence to the Senate Select Committee on A Certain Maritime Incident (CMI) in July 2002. Were some of these reports sourced from reports made to the Australian embassy in Jakarta by Mr S?

If none of these reports were sourced by Mr S then given that he was reporting to the AFP in 2001 on the smugglers who operated on the Christmas Island route, how can his work be considered effective or worthy of his large lump sum payment if he failed to alert his handlers at the Embassy to the activities of Abu Quassey who callously and criminally overloaded a leaky boat with more than 400 people resulting in the deaths of 146 children, 142 women and 65 men?

If some of these reports were sourced by Mr S then what exactly did Mr S tell the AFP of Abu Quassey and his SIEV X venture? Did the AFP have more knowledge of the SIEVX vessel than we have been previously led to believe? ( 12400) | ©Copyright Marg Hutton ~ / 2002-2014