Brisbane Supreme District Court
Brisbane Supreme District Court Rae Wilson

Man jailed for people smuggling

AN Indonesian man, who smuggled 46 asylum seekers into Australian waters, claims he was "duped".

Niko Selu, 68, says he only learned the voyage he was embarking on was illegal when passengers told him.

Selu was jailed for six years and six months when he faced Brisbane Supreme Court on Monday for people smuggling.

Defence barrister John McInnes told the court people smuggling organisers saw his client as "financially vulnerable and dispensable".

He said Selu, having a previous conviction, would not have embarked on an expedition with "certain failure" if he had known the voyage was illegal.

"He is a simple fisherman and he has naively become involved in an unsophisticated endeavour with little likelihood of any great reward," he said

Mr McInnes said, in support of his client's claims, it was unlikely people higher up in the pyramid would have told him the voyage was doomed to fail.

"Maybe desperation is the explanation," he said.

"His living as a fisherman was not a lucrative one, making between $2.50 and $10 on an outing."

Selu was the captain of the ship -- carrying 45 Afghans and one Iranian person - which was intercepted near Ashmore Reef, off the Western Australian coast, in March, 2010.

Crown prosecutor Joshua Hanna told the court he had four crew including ship's engineer Kial Henuk, cook Kasim Magang and a teenager who was returned to Indonesia because he was under age.

Mr Hanna said Selu initially told authorities his boat was hijacked.

He said Selu must have known what he had been recruited for because he was selected in similar circumstances to a previous people smuggling conviction he had.

"There can't have been any doubt in his mind about what he had been recruited to do," Mr Hanna said.

Justice Peter Lyons said the people who organised travel from the Middle East to Australia received about $500,000.

He said they received $200,000 for the section between Indonesia and Australia, whereas Selu received only about $1000.

The jail term could have been much higher because Selu has a previous conviction for trying to smuggle people in 2001.

Repeat offenders are supposed to receive a minimum eight years jail with a mandatory five years without parole.

A lengthy legal discussion centred around whether Selu was convicted of the offence before or after the Border Protection Act mandatory sentencing came into effect on September 27, 2001.

But Justice Peter Lyons found Selu was convicted of the previous offence when he pleaded guilty on September 21, not when he was sentenced the day the Act was realised.

Selu must serve at least three years behind bars.

He has already served 875 days in either immigration detention or Queensland correctional centres.

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