People smuggler sentenced to 14 years jail

Last updated 22:22 22/10/2012
CHRISTMAS ISLAND HORROR: Fifty people were killed when a boat laden with refugees was driven onto rocks at Christmas Island in December, 2010. Ali Khorram Heydarkhani, 41, helped organise travel for a passenger on the vessel.
Reuters
CHRISTMAS ISLAND HORROR: Fifty people were killed when a boat laden with refugees was driven onto rocks at Christmas Island in December, 2010. Ali Khorram Heydarkhani, 41, helped organise travel for a passenger on the vessel.

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An Iranian-Australian man has been sentenced to 14 years in jail for his role in several people-smuggling voyages, one of which ended in the 2010 Christmas Island tragedy that killed 50 people.

Ali Khorram Heydarkhani, 41, pleaded guilty to two charges of facilitating entry to Australia of five or more people, and two charges of reckless endangerment in the act of facilitating.

One of the charges related to him organising the travel of a passenger on board the stricken vessel which crashed onto rocks at Christmas Island.

Heydarkhani was arrested in Indonesia in January last year, and was extradited to Perth to face trial, originally pleading not guilty. He changed his plea after negotiations, the day before his trial was due to start.

Judge Stephen Scott said Heydarkhani had shown an uncaring and reckless attitude to the safety and life of other human beings.

His primary motivation was for financial reward, Judge Scott said.

Heydarkhani liaised with potential asylum seekers in organising the journeys and arranged the purchase of boats which were unseaworthy and did not contain enough safety equipment.

In some instances, the rotting and vermin-infested vessels did not contain a single lifejacket despite having dozens of asylum seekers on board, including children.

In his representations to potential asylum seekers, he lied about the condition of the vessels, telling some that the boats would be modern and fast.

Herdarkhani had told those on board they would all have their own life jackets, and their own rooms and bathrooms.

In one instance, he told a passenger that it would be like the Titanic.

Heydarkhani was described by Crown prosecutor Ron Davies as "central" to the people smuggling trade.

Noting in Perth's District Court on Monday that Heydarkhani had helped facilitate an illegal asylum-seeker journey only days after the Christmas Island disaster in December 2010, Judge Stephen Scott said he did not accept Heydarkhani was genuinely remorseful.

Judge Scott said Heydarkhani was high up in the Indonesia-based people smuggling syndicate and there was a need to send a clear message that Australian courts handed down severe sentences to such offenders.

Defence lawyer Ian MacFarlane said the sentence should serve as a deterrent to others.

Herdarkhani is the first person to be jailed under the new laws that take into account whether his actions were reckless, as to whether people might die or suffer serious injury.

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Heydarkhani will spend nine and a half years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.

- WAToday with AAP

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