20 Oct 2019

Fatal voyage: accused people smuggler extradited from NZ

10:09 pm on 20 October 2019

An Iraqi man who was extradited from New Zealand to Australia is accused of organising a fatal people-smuggling trip on a fishing boat that killed over 300 people.

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The boat never reached its destination, Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. Photo: Supplied / Wikipedia

Maythem Radhi, 43, was arrested and charged by Australian Federal Police officers after arriving at Brisbane Airport on Friday night following his extradition from New Zealand.

Police allege he was part of a syndicate that organised Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel (Siev) X, which sank en route from Indonesia to Christmas Island on 19 October 2001, killing 353 people.

Most of those who drowned were women and children.

In a media statement AFP said the man, then aged 24, took payments from passengers and helped facilitate the transport and accommodation of people in Indonesia for their journey to Australia.

"Let's not lose sight of the fact that more than 350 people died in this tragedy," AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said in the statement.

"They are owed justice and we remain committed to deterring those who profit from this trade."

Andrew Little at Pike River Mine re-entry delay announcement

Andrew Little Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Mr Radhi has been charged in a court in Brisbane with organising the entry of groups of non-citizens into Australia, which carries the maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the decision to go ahead with the extradition was the responsible thing to do.

"The charges Mr Radhi faces are serious, relating to people trafficking and the deaths of hundreds of people at sea. For the sake of the victims it was the responsible thing to do to ensure everything that could be done was done to ensure he answered to the charges."

Mr Little said he had negotiated with New Zealand and Australian immigration authorities for some time.

"The court was concerned Mr Radhi would be left in immigration limbo as a consequence of Australia's laws and Mr Radhi's immigration status in New Zealand.

"Throughout 2018 I negotiated with Australian and New Zealand immigration authorities to overcome the risk of 'immigration limbo' that Mr Radhi could have found himself in. I also consulted extensively with Mr Radhi's counsel throughout this year."

Mr Little was asked to decide the fate of Mr Radhi by the Supreme Court in 2017.

"Any visa that he entered into Australia on ... was going to last, it couldn't be cancelled as previous experience had shown Australia was prone to do, which would have then put him into immigration detention, which could be indefinite," he said.

"We also had to make sure that once the criminal justice procedures in Australia are concluded he could return to New Zealand."

Mr Radhi was focused on making sure his wife and two children were safe and secure before his extradition to Australia - and the court proceedings which could take years, Mr Little said.

"He wanted to make sure any disruption to his family life was as minimal as possibile."

Mr Little said he was unsure if Mr Radhi would get legal aid in Australia but mutliple lawyers had shown interest in his case.

He is remanded in custody to appear in court again later this month.

Two other men have also faced court over the incident, one in Egypt and one in Queensland.

Mr Little said once the prosecution in Australia was concluded Mr Radhi would be able to return to New Zealand, as he is not assessed as posing any risk to the community or national security.

Mr Radhi was granted refugee status firstly by the UN and subsequently put on the New Zealand refugee programme, the minister said.


Maythem Radhi's had been living in Auckland since 2009 after moving from Indonesia as a refugee.

His extradition was ordered in 2012, but was reversed by the High Court a year later which was then overturned by the Court of Appeal.

He sought to challenge that decidion, but the Supreme Court dismissed his application.

In 2017 it was referred to the Justice Minister Andrew Little to decide whether he would be extradited to Australia.

Andrew Little said after the initial extradition that he was remanded in custody for at least two years.

"Whether or not that time gets taken into account in the event that he gets sentenced to imprisonment in Australia, I'm not sure."


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