Darwin man charged with fresh forced labour and servitude offences

A Darwin man, previously charged with recruiting crew members to work on his fishing boat through deceptive online advertisements and restraining them without consent, will face the Cairns Magistrates Court today (Wednesday, 19 June, 2024), charged with additional human trafficking offences.

The AFP first charged the man, 47, in December 2023 after investigating a report of alleged human trafficking from Queensland Police following the rescue of two people from crocodile-infested waters in northern Queensland. It is alleged the two people rescued had been threatened by their employer while on board his vessel.

The man initially faced Darwin Magistrates Court on 22 December, 2024 and was charged with 22 alleged offences against nine victims. It was alleged in court the man mistreated the deckhands and coxswains who worked for him on his vessel and held them against their will.

The man was remanded in custody then successfully applied for bail.

Further AFP investigations have identified an additional five victims who police allege were subjected to the same mistreatment from the man, after being recruited to work on his fishing boat.

The Darwin man will be charged today (19 June, 2024) with 15 new human trafficking offences.

The charges include:

  • Five counts of engaging in conduct causing another person to enter into or remain in servitude, contrary to section 270.5(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth);
  • Five counts of conducted a business that involved the servitude of another person, contrary to section 270.5(2) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth); and
  • Five counts of deceptive recruiting for labour or services, contrary to section 270.7 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

The man faces a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment.

AFP Acting Superintendent Tim Puchala said the AFP worked closely with its state, Commonwealth and international law enforcement partners to identify and disrupt human trafficking offences.

“The AFP, together with our law enforcement partners are committed to protecting the community from human trafficking, wherever it may occur,” a/Supt Puchala said.

“Human trafficking offences occur when people are recruited or coerced for a particular purpose, transported across or within borders, and subjected to conditions of exploitation they did not agree to prior to their arrival in Australia.

“Our priority is the wellbeing and safety of victims. This is an extremely concerning case involving a significant number of individuals who were allegedly coerced into working in a horrendous and terrifying environment while being in a remote part of Australia.

“The AFP understands it can be incredibly difficult for vulnerable victims to come forward, and we want to assure them that there is help and protection available,” a/Supt Puchala said.

A list of signs to identify potential human trafficking and slavery in Australia are available.

If you suspect that you or another person is experiencing, or at risk of, modern slavery or human trafficking, call 131 AFP (237) or use the AFP’s confidential online form. If you have immediate concerns for your safety, the safety of another person, or there is an emergency, dial Triple Zero (000).

The Support for Trafficked People Program is a key component of Australia’s response to support victims of human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices, and is delivered nationally by the Australian Red Cross.

/Public Release. View in full here.