An alleged Mildura people smuggler told an Iraqi passenger the smugglers were “dogs” and he shouldn’t trust them during a rare sober interaction, a court has heard.
Abbas Allami, 38, faced the second day of a trial at the Melbourne County Court yesterday, after pleading not guilty to aggravated people smuggling.
One of the passengers he is accused of helping to smuggle to Australia, Iraqi man Kadhim Al-Shareeda, told the jury Allami, who he knew as Qaisar, was involved in the smuggling ring headed by Abu Tarek.
He said a smuggler told him the boat that would take him and his family of six to Australia would be a tourist ship like “the Titanic”.
The jury was shown footage of Mr Al Shareeda picking Allami from a photo board, recognising him as a syndicate member he knew as Qaisar.
Mr Al Shareeda, who fled Iraq in 2013, said he agreed to pay Abu Tarek $15,000 for the journey from Malaysia to Indonesia and a further $15,000 for the journey from Indonesia to Australia.
He said he had decided to come to Australia after meeting with a man in Turkey who told him Australia needed refugees and they would be welcome.
He said he dealt with Qaisar – who organised transport for the passengers – directly in Indonesia four times, as well as speaking to him.
He said he and other passengers waiting to go on a boat had run-ins with police on a number of occasions in Indonesia and had to bribe the same Indonesian immigration official on two occasions to be freed from custody.
Mr Al Shareeda said after a number of failed attempts to leave, he formed the opinion Abu Tarek was lying to him and trying to rip him off. He said he spoke to a sober Allami – who he believed to be drunk on all previous encounters – on the phone after a failed attempt which ended in arrest.
“The smugglers are all dogs ... you have a good family ... don’t trust them,” Mr Al Shareeda said Allami told him on the phone.
He said he eventually paid a different people smuggler $12,000 to get to Australia, arriving near Christmas Island in December 2013.
Under cross-examination from defence barrister Graeme Davis, Mr Al Shareeda said he was very worried about being sent to Nauru while he was being held in a detention centre. Mr Davis put to Mr Al Shareeda he was very pleased when he was able to identify Allami on a photo board while he was in detention in 2014.
“That’s because you knew you were helping the Australian authorities, wasn’t it?” Mr Davies said. Mr Al Shareeda replied: “Correct”.
He said he believed the Australia authorities would have turned the boat back to Indonesia when they arrived at Christmas Island.
“Thank God the boat broke down, otherwise they would have sent us back to Indonesia,” he said.
The trial, before Judge Jeanette Morrish, continues.
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