An Indian national has been charged with people smuggling after allegedly attempting to sneak a team of fake journalists into Brisbane, Australian authorities said Thursday.
The group was posing as a media contingent coming to the Australian state of Queensland to cover the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which start on the Gold Coast on April 4, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Force said in a joint statement.
Nine people attempted to enter Australia on Wednesday with "temporary activity visas," but after being questioned at Brisbane Airport by Australian Border Force (ABF), eight were found to have fraudulent foreign media credentials, the statement said.
The Indian national had valid credentials and was organizing the group's travel, police said.
An ABF liaison officer had flagged the group to Australian authorities as potential "non-genuine travelers" during a stopover in Thailand.
"We have a skilled network of (liaison officers) 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," ABF regional commander Queensland Terry Price said in the statement.
Australia is infamous for its tough immigration policy, including refusing to allow any asylum seekers who arrive by boat to ever settle in the country.
The 46-year-old Indian national who was taken into custody has been charged with one count of people smuggling and one count of having false documents.
The maximum penalty for the two offenses is up to 20 years in jail. The suspect is expected to face court on April 6. The remaining eight people have been taken into immigration detention.
An official with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said they were in touch with the High Commission in Australia to ascertain more details about the case.
Price said the ABF would be keeping a strict eye on visitors during the Commonwealth Games. CNN contacted the Australian Federal Police for additional details, but officers declined to comment.
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