Canberra, March 29 (IANS) An Indian national has been charged with people smuggling after allegedly attempting to sneak a team of fake journalists into Brisbane, Australian authorities said Thursday.
The group was posing as a media contingent coming to the state of Queensland to cover the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which start on the Gold Coast on April 4, CNN quoted the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force as saying in a joint statement.
Nine people attempted to enter Australia on Wednesday with “temporary activity visas”, but after being questioned at the Brisbane Airport by Australian Border Force (ABF), eight were found to have fraudulent foreign media credentials, the statement said.
The 46-year-old Indian national had valid credentials and was organising the group’s travel, the police said. He has been charged with one count of people smuggling and one count of having false documents.
The maximum penalty for the two offences is up to 20 years in jail.
An ABF liaison officer had flagged the group to Australian authorities as potential “non-genuine travellers” during a stopover in Thailand.
“We have a skilled network of (liaison officers) at key overseas international airports who can identify travellers of concern and stop them travelling or, as in this case, provide real time information to alert colleagues onshore,” ABF regional commander Queensland Terry Price said in the statement.
The Indian national is expected to face court on April 6, CNN reported.
The remaining eight people have been taken into immigration detention.
Price said the ABF would be keeping a strict eye on visitors during the Commonwealth Games.