Three Indonesian fishermen aboard the boat that was last month wrecked at Christmas Island have been charged with people smuggling.
The men, aged 22, 60 and 32, who were also on the boat, will appear in Perth Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has charged the men with one count each of facilitating the bringing to Australia a group of five or more persons, contrary to section 233C of the Migration Act 1958.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland on Monday said the Australian Federal Police (AFP) had been working tirelessly on its criminal investigation into last month’s tragedy, AAP reported.
“There is certainly a high likelihood of prosecutions happening and happening relatively quickly in this matter,” Mr McClelland told reporters on Monday.
The AFP’s investigation encompassed the boat’s Indonesian crew and “more substantial operators”, Mr McClelland said.
The ABC reports that the three men were charged by the AFP late on Monday night, and will appear in Perth Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
They bring the total number of people charged by the AFP with people smuggling offences since September 2008 to 302.
The maximum penalty for people smuggling offences is 20 years imprisonment and/or a $220,000 fine.
At least 30 people died when the asylum seeker boat – known as SIEV 221 – crashed on rocks and broke apart off Christmas Island’s Rocky Point on December 15.
Another 20 people are also believed to have died but their bodies were not recovered. Forty-two people survived.
The news on prosecutions came as Customs and Border Protection Command released an internal review clearing itself of any wrongdoing over the disaster.
CEO Michael Carmody said his people had followed procedure, displayed good judgement and deserved high praise.
“I am pleased that the internal review recognises the brave efforts of those personnel involved in the difficult rescue,” he said.
The report – the first of several into the disaster – also found Customs had no intelligence to indicate when the boat left Indonesia or when it was likely to arrive at Christmas Island.
The government has accepted the review’s eight recommendations, including the trial of a land-based radar system and additional safety and rescue equipment at strategic locations.
The opposition says a full policy review is needed.