Foreign ‘journalists’ arrested at Brisbane Airport

NINE Indian nationals claiming to be journalists have been detained in Brisbane by Australian Border Force, after arriving in the country to cover the Commonwealth Games.

The group's claim to be journalists has been considered "not genuine" by authorities.

The Games begin on the Gold Coast next week, with the opening ceremony to be held on Wednesday.

Eight people were allegedly smuggled into Brisbane by Rakesh Kumar Sharma this morning with temporary visa were false media accreditation.

Sharma, 46, this morning appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates Court charged with one count each of the aggravated people smuggling and creating false documents.

He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years' jail.

Court documents show Shama allegedly facilitated the arrival of eight other fake Indian journalists, who ranged in age from 20 years to 38 years old, to Brisbane Airport from India.

Shama was arrested yesterday and the group were detained by Australian Border Force when they arrived at the airport this morning, who considered their claim to be journalists "not genuine".

Court documents also allege Sharma, an Indian National, also lodged false documents relating to the group's travel, sometime between December 2017 and March this year from his home in Kurukshetra, India.

An Australian Border Force Airline liaison officer in Bangkok had flagged the group on transit through Thailand on suspicion they may be non-genuine travellers.

 

Eight ‘journalists’ have been stopped at Brisbane International Airport. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Eight ‘journalists’ have been stopped at Brisbane International Airport. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

 

They were questioned by ABF officers on arrival in Brisbane and eight were found to have false foreign media credentials.

Police will allege in court that Sharma, who allegedly did hold valid credentials, was facilitating the group's travel.

ABF Regional Commander Queensland, Terry Price said that while the ABF was working hard to ensure smooth entry for legitimate Commonwealth Games visitors, attempts to exploit the event and Australia's visa program will not be tolerated.

"Anyone wishing to enter Australia, including athletes, team officials, spectators and the media, must hold a valid visa and accreditation and must be deemed to be a legitimate visitor," Commander Price said.

"As with all travellers, the ABF will process all Commonwealth Games visitors on arrival and anyone found not to be here for legitimate purposes can expect to have their visas cancelled and to be turned around. This may occur on arrival in Australia, or prior to boarding flights to Australia.

"We have a skilled network of ALOs 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."

"The ABF remains highly alert to other similar attempts that may occur as we get closer to the start of the Commonwealth Games."

AFP Manager Aviation, Commander Warwick Macfarlane said security measures throughout the lead-up and duration of the Commonwealth Games will be a collaborative effort between law enforcement and domestic partner agencies.

"AFP officers at Brisbane International Airport will continue to work with partner agencies to maintain a safe and secure environment for all travellers attending the Commonwealth Games", Commander Warwick Macfarlane said.

The other eight individuals have been taken into immigration detention. Enquiries are continuing in relation to this matter.

The court heard the Sharma is expected to apply for bail next week after an Indian interpreter is sought.

The prosecution indicated they would oppose the bail application.

The 46-year-old will appear in court again on April 6.

Queensland Police Service Deputy Commissioner Bob Gee said there was no threat to the Commonwealth Games.

"In fact what we're seeing is that the system works," he said.

Mr Gee said authorities were in "a real time investigation" and would not comment further.



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