A 19-YEAR-OLD Afghan national has admitted organising two fatal boat voyages to Australia that resulted in the deaths of almost 100 asylum seekers, Indonesian police say.
Haji Irfan, an Afghan national with links to people-smuggling kingpin Sayed Abbas, was arrested last Friday in relation to his alleged involvement in organising the asylum-seeker boat which sank on its way to Australia on June 21, killing 90 people.
A spokesman for the Indonesian National Police said today that Irfan had admitted to being behind a number of people-smuggling ventures, adding that authorities were closing in on others involved in his network.
“He has admitted that he’s involved in several boats,” police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said.
A spokesperson for the Australian Federal Police confirmed that the man in custody was “a key syndicate member” behind the boat that sank on June 21.
“The AFP and the Indonesian National Police (INP) are working in collaboration to identify the organisers and facilitators responsible for this vessel,” the spokesperson said today.
“This arrest demonstrates the successful close cooperation between Australia and Indonesian law enforcement and the joint commitment to the fight against people smuggling.
“While investigations remain ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
Irfan is also suspected of involvement in organising a boat that capsized and sank on its way to Australia on June 27.
He remains in custody at police headquarters in Jakarta and is likely to be charged with people smuggling offences. He faces a mandatory minimum jail term of five years if convicted.
More than 200 people were aboard the boat which sank on June 21 between Christmas Island and the Sunda Strait in Indonesia.
At least 90 people perished while another 110 were rescued, and are on Christmas Island.
Four people died and 130 were rescued after when the second boat sank last Wednesday, 13 nautical miles west of where the first boat went down less than a week earlier.
Authorities in Indonesia believe Irfan’s network is responsible for sending many more asylum-seeker boats to Australia.
It’s understood he is linked to Abbas, who is regarded as one of the biggest players in the people-smuggling business.
Abbas remains in custody in Indonesia.
The news of Irfan’s arrest came as the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Julia Gillard held talks in Darwin, including in relation to co-operation on combating people smuggling.