NZ refugee's extradition to Australia was not taken lightly, Justice Minister Andrew Little says

Justice Minister Andrew Little says his decision the extradite a man accused of being involved in a fatal people smuggling operation to Australia was not taken lightly.

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Mr Little, the Justice Minister, was personally asked to decide whether or not Maythem Radhi should be sent to Australia to face trial. Source: Breakfast

Maythem Radhi, 43, was arrested and charged by Australian Federal Police after arriving at Brisbane Airport on Friday night after being extradited from New Zealand, and he faces up to ten years in prison.

Police allege he was part of a syndicate that organised Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel (Siev) X, which sank en route from Indonesia to Christmas Island on 19 October 2001, killing 353 people. Most of those who drowned were women and children.

In a media statement AFP said the man, then aged 24, took payments from passengers and helped facilitate the transport and accommodation of people in Indonesia for their journey to Australia.

Mr Little told media on Friday that negotiations on the conditions of the extradition with Australia had been extensive, and that extradition was the responsible thing to do.

"The charges Mr Radhi faces are serious, relating to people trafficking and the deaths of hundreds of people at sea. For the sake of the victims it was the responsible thing to do to ensure everything that could be done was done to ensure he answered to the charges."

Speaking this morning to TVNZ1's Breakfast programme, Mr Little said that he only got involved in the case because he was directly asked to do so by the Supreme Court in 2017.

He said negotiations between New Zealand and Australia had been extensive, and that every decision made by the court had been appealed by Mr Radhi's legal team.

"In the end, what I was motivated most by was the fact that although these allegations are yet to be proven, the allegations relate to an event where 350 people lost their lives," Mr Little said.

Mr Little said Mr Radhi arrived in New Zealand as a designated refugee in 2009, and has a family in Auckland.

Mr Little also said that the man had lived "a law-abiding life in New Zealand".

The cost of the proceedings to New Zealand were justified, Mr Little said, as the Government had to ensure that anyone extradited from this country would be treated correctly.

"Any proceeding that goes right through to the Supreme Court, there's going to be some cost worn by the taxpayer," Mr Little said.

"Extradition is a very serious step to take.

"We've got to be sure that the country he's going back to is a country that observes the rule of law, it's going to be fair and they're going to get fair treatment."

Mr Little said New Zealand typically deals with extraditions at a lower level than the minister, and only "a handful" of extraditions are requested each year."

RNZ and ABC contributed to this report.