It is the question at the heart of a diplomatic storm. Did an Australian official pay people smugglers to take dozens of asylum seekers back to Indonesia? In this investigation, 60 Minutes reveals the truth about what happened on the high seas. The program has travelled to the remote island of Rote, to examine the evidence and hear from the key players.
The Captain of the people smuggling vessel tells 60 Minutes he and his crew were paid $5,000 U-S each, to cooperate and turn their boat around. He says the payment was made by a plain clothed Australian man on board a border security vessel.
The 65 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Burma, tell 60 Minutes, they were transferred on to two smaller boats and deliberately given only enough diesel to make for Rote Island.
The Rote Island Police Chief tells 60 Minutes it’s the first time people smugglers have been directly paid to take asylum seekers back to Indonesia.
General Endang Sunjaya, the Nusa Tenggara Timur Police Chief, labels the payment a bribe, and says Australia’s actions are illegal. He predicts a new wave of people smugglers attempting dangerous sea voyages, in the hope they’ll be intercepted and paid handsomely to turn around.
Reporter: Michael Usher
Producers: Luke Blair, Garry McNab
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