REPORT: Australian people smugglers are now sending jihadi fighters to Syria

Melbourne schoolboy Jake Bilardi is believed to have died in a suicide bombing in Iraq.

There’s an astonishing and frightening story today in Fairfax papers that suggests a people-smuggling ring based in Melbourne, which planned to bring Lebanese asylum seekers to Australia by boat, is now helping would-be Islamic State recruits slip out of Australia to join the war in Syria.

Fairfax has documents, obtained under freedom of information, relating to the 2013 sinking of an asylum seeker boat off Java that killed dozens of Lebanese people, which suggest a syndicate that allegedly included a lawyer, accountant, travel agent and someone making fake passports were involved.

The information was handed to Australia Federal Police in Melbourne, but investigations stalled because they could not confirm the people-smuggling activities alleged. However the “travel agent” suspected of assisting people head to Syria.

While Australian authorities are still trying to identify how would-be jihadists are leaving to join ISIS, Fairfax takes up the story of how the trail went cold:

Initial inquiries by the AFP showed that one of the people named had previously been found trying to leave the country with large amounts of cash and another had moved large amounts of money to family members. But the AFP decided that the movement of money was not within the normal people smuggling channels and the lawyer had also made some large movements but that was not unreasonable given his profession.

The named “travel agent” assisting people to get to Syria was not investigated further because the AFP was unsure if the person named was the same person they had located and that person did not work in a travel agency.

“The searches concluded have provided no confirmation of people smuggling activities. It is recommended, no further action is required pending more information” an AFP report said.

The AFP subsequently said it does not comment on specific ongoing operations, but is investigating a number of people suspected of facilitating travel to Syria.

There’s more detail here.

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