Alleged people smuggler faces extradition

Last updated 13:11 17/07/2014

Extradition proceedings against an alleged people smuggler have been re-ignited following a Court of Appeal decision.

Iraq-born Maythem Radhi is sought by the Australian Government over the SIEV X boat which sank in 2001 with the deaths of an estimated 350 people on its way from Indonesia to Australia.

His extradition to Australia was halted by the High Court last year but that decision has been overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Radhi, who was found living in South Auckland in 2011, was ordered to be extradited to Australia in March 2012.

A High Court judge stopped the extradition, however, ruling that the alleged offence did not constitute an extraditable crime.

To be extradited to Australia to face trial, the Crown had to show there was a comparable offence in New Zealand law that Radhi had broken and that the offence was punishable by more than one year in prison.

At the time, the penalty for people smuggling was worded such that it had a maximum three month prison term, or $5000 fine, for each person smuggled.

Radhi's defence has argued the ''multiplier'' aspect of the legislation only applied to the fine part of the penalty, and could not be used to multiply the imprisonment part to exceed the minimum one-year sentence required.

The High Court agreed and ruled that the multiplier could not apply to the imprisonment period.

However, in a judgement delivered today, the Court of Appeal disagreed and reversed the decision.

The Court of Appeal said the alleged crime was an offence in New Zealand at the time and the multiplier aspect could apply to the imprisonment period.

The Court issued a warrant for Radhi's detention and remitted the matter to the District Court? to consider whether a surrender order - the final order that gives Radhi to Australaian authorities - should be issued.

Radhi was allegedly one of the key organisers of the boat later known as the SIEV (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel) X.

The boat-load of 421 asylum seekers sank in international waters south of Indonesia on October 18, 2001, en route to Australia's Christmas Island.

Officials estimated 146 children, 142 women and 65 men drowned when the 19.5m fishing boat sank. Australian police alleged three men were responsible for organising the people smuggling operation - Khaleed Daoed, Abu Quassey and Maythem Radhi.

The ''non-citizens'', who were of Middle Eastern origin, travelled to Indonesia to make the journey between July and October 2001.

On October 18 2001, passengers were transferred to a beach in Sumatra where they were ferried by larger boats onto the SIEV X.

"The SIEV X was so overcrowded that 20 passengers refused to board it and after several hours into the journey, 23 passengers who were concerned about the vessel's safety, negotiated with a fishing boat to take them back to Indonesia,'' the Crown alleged.

The remaining passengers and crew struck rough weather on October 19 and sank.

Most of the passengers drowned but about 45 were rescued by fishing vessels and returned to Indonesia.

Australian police alleged that Radhi was present during negotiations about price and terms of travel and that he received payments from some passengers, controlled their movements and accommodation, accompanied some of them to Sumatra and assisted some to board the SIEV X.


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