People smugglers blow their cover after getting bogged in the NT - police

One of the men who came unstuck after getting stuck in the NT was arrested yesterday. Picture: AFP.
One of the men who came unstuck after getting stuck in the NT was arrested yesterday. Picture: AFP.

Members of an international people smuggling network fell victim to the Northern Territory's wet season earlier this year, it has been claimed.

Federal Police allege the gang were trying to smuggle in "slaves" told they would have to work for a year without income in "debt bondage".

The AFP yesterday conducted simultaneous operations in the NSW Hunter and Mareeba, near Cairns and arrested two people, for their alleged involvement in the attempted people smuggling venture.

The gang's scheme was intercepted by Operation Sovereign Borders en-route to Australia, it was claimed.

Police claim the men were part of an international people smuggling network.

The plot was uncovered after the two men called for help after becoming bogged while travelling in a remote area of the Territory

Police believe they were the intended "shore party" for the smugglers.

After becoming stranded at a water crossing they made a distress call for help, which alerted NT Police.

The two men, aged 30 and 31, claimed they were in the area on a camping trip, unusual in itself on January 24, the height of the wet season.

NT officers observed the men only carried a carton of water and one small bag between them.

Further checks led investigators to believe the pair were in the area to act as the "shore party" to meet a vessel, believed to be carrying illegal maritime arrivals.

Their job was also to facilitate their onwards journey in Australia, it was claimed.

No such vessel reached the Australian mainland.

The two men continued to be the subject of ongoing police enquiries while sufficient evidence was gathered to allow charges to be laid.

It was those same two men who were arrested in their homes in Birmingham Gardens, NSW and Mareeba, Qld yesterday.

Investigators executed search warrants at the properties, where they uncovered visa applications on a computer hard drive, seizing mobile phones, computers, and documents.

Both men have been charged with one count each of facilitated the entry of a group of five or more unlawful non-citizens into Australia, contrary to section 233C of the Migration Act 1958.

Enquiries are continuing with overseas authorities through the AFP's International Command in relation to this suspected smuggling network.

AFP Commander Crime Coordination Paul Osborne said the arrests are a reminder that anyone who attempts to profit from putting another person's life at risk remains firmly in law enforcement's sights.

"We know that people smugglers operate across borders and regions in an attempt to promise something they cannot deliver; illegal access to Australia," Commander Osborne said.

"The AFP's International Command works closely with Joint Agency Task Force OSB and agencies in source and transit countries to disrupt any illegal maritime people smuggling ventures targeting Australia."

"Our combined focus is to protect the lives and safety of these people, who people smugglers seek to take advantage of, and to secure Australia's borders."

This story People smugglers blow their cover after getting bogged in the NT - police first appeared on Katherine Times.