A Chinese national appeared in Mareeba Magistrates court today charged with being part of an international people-smuggling ring.
Mr Xufie Liu was remanded in custody after being refused bail by Magistrate Thomas Braes, after hearing that the accused had possible access to large amounts of cash and alleged links to people smugglers.
Mr Liu was charged after Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided his home in Mareeba yesterday.
The arrest comes after Mr Liu and an accomplice, a 30-year-old from Newcastle had been under police surveillance for almost 6 months.
The two men first came to the attention of investigators when they called Northern Territory Police asking for help after their car became stuck at a flooded water crossing in a remote part of the Territory.
After rescuing the pair, NT police decided that their explanation wasn’t credible enough to explain why they were there, which initiated surveillance of the pair.
At the same time, an Indonesian fishing boat with six Chinese nationals on board was intercepted at Ashmore Reef off the Western Australian coast by Border Force officials and turned-back towards Indonesia.
What wasn’t known at the time was the correlation between the boat intercept and the rescue of the two stranded men.
The pair’s movements and communications were monitored until raids were launched on their homes in Newcastle and Mareeba yesterday.
At the raids, police seized visa applications, mobile phones, computers, and other documents.
It’s alleged that the pair were meant to be the shore party, meeting the illegal boat when it was due to land in the NT.
The AFP claims that in return for passage to Australia, the six men would “have to undertake work for a year without income in debt bondage” to repay the smuggling syndicate.
Both men have been charged with facilitating “the entry of a group of five or more unlawful non-citizens into Australia, contrary to section 233C of the Migration Act 1958”. This carries a maximum 20-year sentence with a mandatory 3-year minimum sentence.
In documents tendered to the court, Mr Liu has a licence to operate a labour-hire company on the Tablelands, supplying labour to local farmers including a local avocado farm.
It was also revealed that Mr Liu had been in Australia for the past 8-9 years on a spousal visa and that he has a wife who lives in Sydney.
The case is due to be mentioned in court on September 7.