Australian Airport Staff Smuggled Drugs, Guns for Crime Syndicates

Organized crime syndicates have infiltrated Australian airports, with corrupt baggage handlers, customs officials and airline staff suspected of smuggling drugs and firearms into the country, The Sunday Telegraph of Sydney reported.

Australian authorities, trade unions, border-protection groups and airlines have revealed there are gaping holes in aviation and maritime security.

A new federal parliamentary inquiry, into the adequacy of aviation and maritime security measures to combat serious and organized crime, has been told less than 1 percent of air cargo is physically examined and catering trucks are never searched.

The extraordinary evidence was given in public hearings in Sydney on Friday and Melbourne on Thursday.

Evidence presented by New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Dave Hudson was so sensitive it was heard in a closed session with no public access.

The Australian Federal Police Association claims the current "declare" or "nothing to declare" customs system also allows drug mules to freely smuggle illicit drugs without being caught.

"The introduction of the voluntary 'declare' or 'nothing to declare' process at Australian airports has increased the ability for organized crime to utilize mules to transport narcotics and other illicit goods through the Customs barrier undetected," the Association's submission states.

The Australian Services Union is also critical of the honor-based system, saying it is inappropriate that international passengers are allowed to bypass scrutiny.

Australian airline Qantas' submission to the inquiry admits corrupt employees could misuse their positions to perpetrate unlawful activities and facilitate criminal and terrorist activity.

"The potential for a trusted insider (airport/airline employees, contractors, security personnel, retailers, etc) to circumvent security measures and use their knowledge of the environment is an ongoing consideration for aviation industry participants," it states.

The Transport Workers' Union national secretary Tony Sheldon said catering materials and air cargo were rarely inspected and that a delegate with 20 years experience was only aware of one inspection in the past year.

According to Australian Customs, fewer than 40,000 of the 6.1 million pieces of luggage screened by X-ray are physically opened and searched.

Click here for more on this story from the Sunday Telegraph.