A man accused of smuggling more than 200 asylum seekers on boats from Indonesia will face an Australian court.
Afghan national Ahmad Zia Alizadah, 35, was extradited from Indonesia on Thursday, accused of taking more than $US2 million from those willing to make the dangerous journey.
Police will allege Alizadah coordinated four illegal boat arrivals on February 1, February 24, March 7 and May 12, 2010.
Alizadah is the ninth person to be extradited to face people smuggling charges in Australia since 2009.
He was arrested by Indonesian police in 2015 but his extradition was not approved by Indonesian President Joko Widodo until last month.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Alizadah was believed to be a “significant player” in people smuggling operations.
Mr Dutton defended the time it took to extradite the man, saying there was close cooperation between Indonesian and Australian police and intelligence agencies.
“Extradition proceedings always take time, as both countries need to be satisfied in terms of the process and need to make sure it can withstand legal challenge,” Mr Dutton told the ABC’s AM program.
Mr Dutton said the extradition was proof the “illegal maritime pathway” to Australia was now closed.
“It has been more than 1,000 days since a successful people smuggling venture reached Australia,” he said.
Other illegal operations still under investigation
More than 5,300 people on 117 boats took the dangerous journey during 2009-10, when Alizadah is alleged to have operated.
More than 52,000 people made the voyage seeking asylum between July 2008 and July 2014, according to Parliamentary Library figures.
Mr Dutton said intelligence and police agencies were investigating other alleged people smuggling operations.
“Yes, we have stopped the boats but the threat hasn’t gone away,” he told the ABC.
“People that have been involved in trying to put syndicates together, who have tried to put people on boats, should know that if we can gather sufficient evidence they will be arrested, prosecuted and convicted in the Australian courts.”
Mr Dutton thanked Indonesian authorities for arresting and agreeing to extradite the man.
“Indonesian authorities have recently made a number of arrests for people smuggling offences, demonstrating Indonesia’s strong contribution to disrupting and dismantling the people smuggling trade,” he said.
“Australia values and appreciates Indonesia’s determined efforts to bring people smugglers to justice.”