The Australian government has flatly denied a news report that a senior Sri Lankan government official was suspected by Australian authorities to have been complicit in the people-smuggling trade.
"The Australian" reported Friday that intelligence agencies had identified a high-profile Sri Lankan official close to President Mahinda Rajapaksa who had authorised asylum-seeker boats leaving Sri Lanka bound for Australia.
But a spokesman for Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the claims were untrue, "The Age" reported today.
''There is no evidence to support the allegation that this official is complicit in people-smuggling,'' he said.
''Australia and Sri Lanka have a strong record of co-operation in preventing people-smuggling ventures.''
Sri Lankan Consul-General in Sydney, Bandula Jayasekara, claimed the report ''unbelievable, ridiculous and mischievous''.
During his visit to Sri Lanka in December last year, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced a four-point plan and AU$ 45 million aid over the next five years to assist Sri Lanka to boost the fight against people smuggling on boats from the island nation to Australia across the seas.
Foreign Minister said Australia is setting a clear agenda with the four-point plan- for information and intelligence sharing, on-water disruption by Sri Lankan Navy, sending the message to the smugglers and reducing demand by helping to rebuild Sri Lanka - all designed to curb people smuggling.
"There is a message from these talks to people in Sri Lanka - by getting on that boat you risk your life, you'll lose your money and you will be sent back home," Senator Carr said.
Relates stories: Australia announces four-point plan in combating human smuggling