(1:30 p.m. EDT) -- In a tale almost too bizarre to be real, a Malaysian man is being accused of smuggling nine illegal immigrants from Dubai to New York City -- via Cunard's Queen Mary 2.
The smuggler was nabbed on April 26 at Brooklyn's Red Hook Cruise Terminal as he was attempting to bring nine Chinese passengers, five women and four men, into the U.S. (The story first appeared in the New York Daily News.)
Far from a standard human smuggling scenario (picture the tragically overcrowded, listing and open-air boats more often used), each of these passengers had his or her own accommodations onboard the 151,400-ton, 2,620-passenger vessel. Cunard, which confirmed the arrest of Fat Kwee Wong, the smuggler, and the detaining by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents of the passengers, would not comment on the category of accommodations in which they resided. (One story in the U.K.'s Daily Mail offered a photo of the ship's high-priced duplex suites in its retelling of the tale.) Cunard spokeswoman Jackie Chase also declined to provide info on the onboard activities enjoyed by the immigrants.
How did Fat Kwee Wong, who is also known as "Tin Fook Wong" and "Masahiro Oosta," attempt to pull off the smuggling effort? According to a court complaint report obtained by Cruise Critic, Wong and his nine passengers were carrying fraudulent Japanese passports, which were spotted by the CBP agents working immigration at Red Hook when Queen Mary 2 arrived.
After further questioning, Wong was then transported to a CBP facility in Newark, where he admitted that he was smuggling illegal aliens from Dubai to the U.S. for profit. If Wong's statement about picking up the passengers Dubai is accurate, the party would have been onboard Queen Mary 2 from April 3, when the ship docked in Dubai, to April 26, when it arrived in New York City.
The court complaint reveals that Wong told CBP agents that he was paid $3,000 for each smuggled alien by an individual in China and $500 by each of the nine aliens. More details emerged from his luggage (which was searched): In addition to cruise documentation, there was a rundown of cabin assignments (we were not able to discern whether detainees were able to dine in Queens Grill, Princess Grill or the more mass-market Britannia Grill) and, get this, a printout listing 10 hotel reservations at a New York City Best Western.
Wong was carrying more than $7,500 when arrested.
Neither Cunard nor Robert Nardozo, the U.S. attorney handling the case for the U.S., was able to offer additional comment on when and how Wong and the nine smuggled passengers were able to board. "It's an active investigation, so we're very limited with what we can say beyond what's in the public statement," said Nardozo.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor