Iraqi refugee pleads guilty to people-smuggling charges

AN IRAQI woman who was granted permanent protection after coming to Australia as a refugee has pleaded guilty to people- smuggling.Samira Al Kanani pleaded guilty to three charges relating to the unlawful entry into Australia of two Iraqi men in March 2007 and February last year.She admitted taking a man’s Australian passport out of the country, knowing the travel document had not been issued to her.She also admitted taking part in bringing two non-citizens, Hassanien Mohammed and Ghaith Al Joubori, to Australia in contravention of immigration laws. Neither man has been charged with an offence.Her alleged co-offenders, who include an Australia Post employee, will face trial in coming weeks.Ms Al Kanani’s barrister, Jehane Ghabrial, told the Sydney District Court that before her client sought refuge in Australia, she had spent more than a year and a half in an Iraqi prison due to her Shiite Muslim beliefs.After she had fled Iraq her husband was also jailed and in 2000, Ms Al Kanani was told he had been murdered in prison.”Where people come from the refugee background, from places like Iraq, there are some fairly complex psychological issues at play,” she said.Ms Ghabrial said a specialist psychiatrist in the field of refugee trauma had agreed to examine Ms Al Kanani.She told Judge Greg Woods Ms Al Kanani was granted a permanent protection visa before later becoming an Australian citizen.”It is important for this court to understand her mental condition and to understand any connection between her mental condition and the offending,” she said.The judge said it was ”inconceivable” that Ms Al Kanani had been the ”mastermind” of the people-smuggling operation, but the facts suggested that she had played a significant role.”On the face of it there’s money changing hands in Iraq and somebody is making a dollar out of it,” he said. ”It doesn’t appear to be your client …”The prosecution applied for bail to be revoked in light of the guilty pleas and the strong likelihood of a custodial sentence, but the judge continued bail to allow Ms Al Kanani to get a psychiatric report.
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Catherine Hill Bay project gets go-ahead

A CONTROVERSIAL development proposal at Catherine Hill Bay will proceed but residents have been given a sweetener in the form of heritage protection for parts of the town.The Planning Minister, Tony Kelly, has proposed state heritage listing for the coastal hamlet south of Newcastle, and rezoning of land for residential development in bushland areas next to it.The town’s dilapidated jetty has not been included within the ”cultural precinct” marked for protection, but 126 19th-century properties – mostly workers’ cottages from the town’s coal mining heyday – will be considered.”If the listing is approved, major developments within the precinct will need to respect the area’s significant heritage values,” Mr Kelly said.Last year, the Land and Environment Court threw out a planned development by Rosecorp for about 800 dwellings in Catherine Hill Bay because of an unlawful land swap deal.That development will soon be reconsidered under the draft development controls for land south and west of the proposed heritage area, and for land north of the nearby town of Gwandalan. Buildings up to nine metres high could be built on those sites.Lake Macquarie Council said the government had ”still not addressed the underlying issues”. A spokeswoman for the council said ”studies have not been prepared that prove that development of this land can be accommodated without significant social and environmental impacts on the area”.One resident, Sue Whyte, was pleased about the heritage listing, but vowed to keep fighting the development.”It’s not everything we would have hoped for but … we’ve been able to push the developers away from the heritage areas.”Now that there will be a new [development application], we really hope that we have a chance to bring those dwelling numbers down. It’s still 820 houses on top of 100. We argue this is overwhelming.”A spokesman for Brian Rose, of Rosecorp, said ”the significant heritage values of the village will be further enhanced by our proposal which will be put forward in due course”.The government is rezoning the land to remove legal uncertainty and is seeking public comment. It follows the revival of the state’s biggest residential development last week, Huntlee New Town near Branxton.
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World recognition sought for reminders of our convict past

PRISONS aren’t the obvious thing that comes to mind when the term ”world heritage” is mentioned.Robben Island, perhaps, home to Nelson Mandela for 27 years? The gulag where Alexander Solzhenitsyn lived One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich? The Bastille, if it hadn’t been demolished in 1789 by property developers one step behind the French revolutionaries?But 11 of Australia’s best preserved convict heritage sites are being reviewed this week by a UNESCO meeting in Brazil to determine whether they deserve World Heritage listing. The decision is expected to come on Saturday morning.NSW sites include Hyde Park Barracks, Cockatoo Island and the Old Great North Road around Wisemans Ferry.The federal government’s 2008 submission said the 11 properties represent ”an extraordinary example of global ideas … associated with the punishment and reform of the criminal elements … during the Age of Enlightenment”.But it is Paramatta’s Old Government House and Domain which yielded the most recent evidence of why our convict past merits international acclaim. In May, workmen renovating the drainage system uncovered the footings of outbuildings which date to 1793, when Australia’s first governor, Arthur Phillip, was using convict labour to create the newest administrative centre of the British Empire.”It was like joining the dots of a building,” says Michael Ellis, of the National Trust of NSW, which now takes care of Old Government House. ”A very exciting time.”The footings are significant finds. They match the Phillip-era bricks in the house itself. The mortar doesn’t have any lime in it. At that early stage, they obviously didn’t have the facilities to burn shells to make lime.”On conservation advice, the old footings have been reburied, but Mr Ellis says the shape of the outbuildings will be reflected in the new sandstone paving.But not all historians are entirely happy with the focus on the 11 sites. David Roberts, senior lecturer in Australian history at the University of New England, says, ”There’s a lot of rhetoric about what makes something worth of World Heritage significance. But essentially, it has to be something that is large, physical and imposing.”In a recent paper, Dr Roberts argued that the chosen sites did not reflect the common experience of convicts, most of whom led lonely and blameless lives far away from the emerging cities.Granting World Heritage status for the 11 might mean less obvious, but no less deserving, convict sites were effectively categorised as second class, simply because nothing much remains.THE CONTENDERSOur 11 convict sites nominated for world heritage listing:Old Government House and Domain (NSW)Hyde Park Barracks (NSW)Cockatoo Island (NSW)Old Great North Road (NSW)Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (Norfolk Island)Brickendon-Woolmers Estates (Tas)Darlington Probation Station (Tas)Cascades Female Factory (Tas)Port Arthur Historic Site (Tas)Coal Mines Historic Site (Tas)Fremantle Prison (WA)
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Cabcharge accused of bullying its competitors

TAXI drivers and owners who have tested alternative payment terminals in their cabs claim they have been bullied by the industry’s most powerful player, Cabcharge Australia, in a bid to protect its $450 million stranglehold over the market.The companies behind the new payment systems, Live Payments and the Transport Australia Xpress System, accused Cabcharge of trying to keep them out of the market as they prepared to launch their products this week.Tom Varga, chief executive of Live Payments, said Cabcharge-owned taxi networks – which in Sydney include Taxis Combined, Silver Service and Yellow Cabs – had refused to allow their drivers to use his firm’s terminals despite a 2006 ruling by the competition regulator designed to break Cabcharge’s monopoly over the electronic taxi payments system.”We have experienced first-hand where drivers and operators have come to us and said that their network has told them they are not allowed to have another terminal,” he said. ”We have seen evidence of messages from networks where they have displayed messages [on the dispatcher] that Live Payments is not an endorsed method.”Almost all of Sydney’s 20,000 taxis are fitted with Cabcharge terminals, while about 25 per cent contain secondary terminals.The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is pursuing Cabcharge in the Federal Court over alleged anti-competitive behaviour on the grounds that it created barriers to entry by new players and used its ”substantial degree of power” to discourage competition.Live Payments is one of six companies expected to give evidence in the trial, which is set down for October 4 in Melbourne. Cabcharge declined to comment when contacted by the Herald yesterday.Live Payments, which held a launch on Tuesday, will enable passengers to pay using its own brand of cards and vouchers that can still be used on Cabcharge terminals where a Live Payments one is not available. Live Payments will still charge a 10 per cent processing fee, but unlike Cabcharge, which doesn’t pass on any of the fee to drivers, Mr Varga said drivers using Live Payments would receive a 30 to 40 per cent cut.The Transport Australia Xpress System, developed by the breakaway industry group the Australian Taxi Drivers Association, will broadcast jobs and accept payments using mobile phone technology. It will undercut both Cabcharge and Live Payments by charging 8.5 per cent commission for credit card payments and 5 per cent for payments from debit accounts. Passengers will also receive the driver’s name, taxi and phone numbers at the time of booking. ”In Sydney there are 14 million bookings over the network each year,” a spokesman for Xpress, Michael Jools, said. ”From that only 9 million get picked up.”He said Cabcharge had used ”regulatory stealth” to secure a deal that gives it exclusivity over payments for government subsidy schemes, such as taxi trips for the disabled.
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Dead man’s claims denied by crime commission

THE NSW Crime Commission has denied interviewing an accused drug dealer found dead in his prison cell last week, who had claimed that the crime body had intimidated him.Czaba ”Chubby” Magyari told someone close to him a week before his death that he had just been hauled before the NSW Crime Commission.He claimed the threats were worse than in his native Hungary where he had already spent time in prison. He said he was told to plead guilty and inform on his co-accused in an alleged sophisticated drug supply syndicate or his former girlfriend and best friend would be targeted.But above all, Mr Magyari claimed, the officers wanted to find the money of the suspected large-scale syndicate which allegedly distributed cocaine and heroin in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.The Crime Commission is one of the few government agencies whose revenue raised usually matches its expenses.Mr Magyari said he had refused to co-operate, and his best friend, Tamas Czako, and girlfriend, Lilla Toemoeskoezy, were charged that same morning. He was upset by the trouble he thought he’d caused them and insisted they did not understand what was going on.But yesterday the Crime Commission, which has initiated proceedings in the Supreme Court to seize Mr Magyari’s assets, denied it had conducted any interviews with him.Police have claimed that Mr Magyari, 42, who was found dead in his cell in Parklea Prison on Friday, was the head of the criminal syndicate that had used highly sophisticated technology to escape detection.Covert pinhole cameras hidden in a picture frame, a smoke detector and elsewhere in his Drummoyne home, and in an alleged drug safe-house in Bexley North, could be remotely activated, police claim.When any motion – such as from covert police activity – was detected the men would be informed by email and SMS, while all cameras could also be monitored remotely, police claim in documents tendered in court.They also allege Mr Magyari used GPS trackers on the cars used by other syndicate members and had their cars bugged so he could listen to their conversations.The court heard that Mr Czako, who is in Australia on a visitor’s visa, was unemployed and shared phones, bank accounts and computer passwords with his long-time friend Mr Magyari. He allegedly installed the electronic devices and monitored the security systems.”His only means of making money was through assisting the criminal syndicate members by installing such devices in order to avoid detection by police,” police claim.They have so far charged at least eight people, seized more than 2 kilograms each of cocaine and heroin – worth more than $1.5 million – and intercepted 1400 phone calls.But while most are charged with drug supply or being part of a criminal organisation, Ms Toemoeskoezy was accused of dealing with the money from the alleged drug business.An inquest will be held into Mr Magyari’s death in custody.Lifeline: 131 114
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