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Two dead but no alert on gun-running Death Ship captain

Two dead but no alert on gun-running Death Ship captain

BORDER security officials have told a Senate Inquiry how a gun-running ship captain linked to the suspicious deaths of two sailors was not risky enough to trigger an automatic alert on his return to Australia.

A coronial inquest found the first sailor died as a result of "foul play" and evidence "strongly suggested" former Sage Sagittarius or "Death Ship" captain Venancio Salas Jr either "caused or authorised" the deaths or knew what happened.

NSW Deputy Coroner Sharon Freund concluded the second sailor also met with foul play and that it would be an "extraordinary coincidence" if the same person or persons were not responsible.

Capt Salas has consistently denied he had any part in the murders of the two men and no charges have been laid.
 

Sage Sagittarius former captain Venancio Salas Jr leaves the Sydney Coroner's Court on February 18, 2016 after attending a coronial inquest into how two Filipino sailors died on board. PHOTO: OWEN JACQUES
Sage Sagittarius former captain Venancio Salas Jr leaves the Sydney Coroner's Court on February 18, 2016 after attending a coronial inquest into how two Filipino sailors died on board. PHOTO: OWEN JACQUES

The failure of the Department of Border Protection and its Australian Border Force to monitor Capt Salas meant he was able to work along the Australian coastline through 2015 and 2016.

At the time, NSW Police wanted to speak to Capt Salas.

The coronial inquest was keen to hear his evidence.

Border authorities only acted after a News Corp Australia journalist delivered the captain's location to the inquest in person.

Acting on that advice in early 2016, Australian Border Force officials rushed to Gladstone to subpoena Capt Salas and bring him to face two days of intense questioning.

He was just hours away from leaving the country.

Border Protection bureaucrats confirmed Capt Salas did not have an "alert" on his name.

That means there was no warning as he entered our waters.

 

The Sage Sagittarius or
The Sage Sagittarius or "Death Ship" arrives in the Port of Gladstone in June 2017. Paul Braven


Queensland Nationals Senator Barry O'Sullivan was shocked to learn that Capt Salas was free to work along the Australian coastline.

"So Captain Salas, who is a suspect for these murders and events, confessed to gun-running ... he did not qualify for a red flag within this alert system?"

Officials told the inquiry last week the Department held "intel" on the two deaths compiled by the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police and the former Customs department.

But that intelligence, which would later help a coroner find that both sailors met with foul play and either fell or were thrown overboard, did not convince border authorities that Capt Salas was a threat worthy of an "alert".
 

Nationals Senator Barry O'Sullivan, a former detective, was shocked by the revelations.
Nationals Senator Barry O'Sullivan, a former detective, was shocked by the revelations. Contributed

Senator O'Sullivan, a former detective, was horrified at the revelations.

"You have left me once more very concerned about the security arrangements in your agencies, if someone like Captain Salas does not qualify for a red flag," Senator O'Sullivan said.

"You might not want to know, but I suspect that ordinary Australians would want to know when the Salases of the world are in our ports.

"I don't give a rat's arse where they are coming from or where they are going.

"We need to know when these sorts of people are in our company."

It has been only weeks since the Senator O'Sullivan's own Coalition Government rejected this inquiry's calls to scrutinise port and ship security.

The revelations by top Border Protection bureaucrats also follow the Department's own submission which described foreign ships as being "attractive for use in illegal activity".