Sydney: Australian police charged three Indonesian men on Tuesday with people-smuggling offences over a refugee shipwreck that killed about 50 people, including children and babies.
Police said the trio, aged 22, 32 and 60, had allegedly attempted to bring about 90 people to Australia on the wooden fishing boat which shattered on cliffs at Christmas Island in December, tossing dozens to their deaths.
"The Australian Federal Police charged the men with one count each of facilitating the bringing to Australia of a group of five or more persons," police said in a statement.
The three Indonesians were on board the vessel which foundered at the remote Australian territory in rough weather on December 15, forcing all on board into the sea.
More than half of the Iranian, Iraqi and Kurdish refugees drowned or were crushed on the rocks.
Rescuers managed to pull 41 people from the water, including some with injuries from being pounded by floating debris, and recovered 30 bodies. Only one man managed to make it the short distance from the boat to shore unaided.
The charges come one day after Customs released an internal report into the tragedy which said that authorities had not spotted the illegal boat until it was about 600 metres from Christmas Island, just an hour before it crashed.
The three men are due to appear in Perth Magistrates Court later Tuesday.
Police said the maximum penalty for people smuggling offences is 20 years` imprisonment and/or AUD 220,000 (USD 219,514) fine.