Group From India Posing As Journalists Held In Australia

Group From India Posing As Journalists Held In Australia

An Indian journalist has been charged with people smuggling after allegedly trying to sneak a team of fake journalists into Brisbane, Australian authorities said Thursday.

The journalist, Rakesh Sharma, has also been charged with facilitating false documents and misleading information in relation to non-citizens, according to AFP news agency. 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. The Indian journalist had valid credentials and was organizing the group's travel, police said, report CNN and the BBC.

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, according to CNN and the BBC.

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 group had traveled through Bangkok, where officials suspected them of carrying fraudulent documents and alerted authorities in Australia.

"We have a skilled network of (liaison officers) at key overseas international airports who can identify travelers 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.

Image credit: Australian Border Force