Asia-Pacific

Organiser of Indon 'cash' boat faces court

Indonesian prosecutors are pushing for the "mastermind" of the people-smuggling boat at the centre of a Senate inquiry to be jailed for 13 years.

The "mastermind" of a people-smuggling boat whose crew were allegedly paid more than $US30,000 in cash by Australian officials to turn back should be jailed for 13 years, Indonesian prosecutors say.

Kugan, also known as Vishvanathan Thineshkumar, is accused of organising the vessel, hiring the captain and crew and assembling the 65 asylum seekers who were bound for New Zealand in May last year.

The boat's crew claim they were intercepted by the Australian Border Force, who paid them to turn back.

Kugan, a Sri Lankan, is the last of seven men to face sentencing over the case, which is the focus of a Senate inquiry in Canberra.

Describing him as the "mastermind" of the journey, prosecutor Alexander Sele asked Rote Ndao District Court on Thursday to sentence him to 13 years in prison for the offence of people smuggling, which carries a maximum 15-year term.

"During the trial process he (Kugan) always made things difficult. He has not been straightforward in giving answers to the court," he said.

Five Indonesian fishermen told their trial late last year they were handed $US32,000 in cash by Australian officials to turn the boat back and never repeat the venture.

The captain, Yohanis Humiang, 35, has said he negotiated the payment, which was given as capital to start a new business.

An asylum seeker aboard the vessel, Abdul Malek Molah of Myanmar, also told an Indonesian court he saw the cash being handed over.

The crew were each sentenced to five years in January, while Yohanis was jailed for five years and eight months.

Kugan's case is set to return to court this month.

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