UK & World News
Oz Customs Staff Held Over Drug Smuggling
An alleged major drug smuggling operation involving a network of customs officials has been uncovered at Australia's biggest airport.
Eight people have been arrested - with more expected - after police swooped on Sydney Airport following a two-year corruption probe.
It is claimed that large quantities of drugs were smuggled through the airport in backpacks and suitcases, with corrupt officials using their knowledge of security systems to allow the narcotics to pass through the international terminal undetected.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said one customs officer, one quarantine officer and two members of the public were arrested this week.
The other four were arrested in August and October.
"There is no place for corruption in our law enforcement agencies," he said. "Where it exists we have to weed it out."
Local media reported that customs officers at Sydney Airport had allegedly been working with organised crime figures to import drugs.
Up to 20 officials are suspected of being involved in either serious misconduct or corrupt dealings, ranging from criminal association to leaking information, drug trafficking and bribery.
They are suspected of importing pseudoephedrine, cocaine, steroids and possibly even weapons.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said alleged couriers were sent overseas to collect drugs before returning through customs with the help of people in trusted positions.
It is understood more arrests are possible.
Mr Clare said the majority of law enforcement officers were good, honest, hard-working people.
"But we can't be naive," he said, adding there would always be people who would be tempted.
"There will always be the risk that our law enforcement officers could end up working for the crooks."
Mr Clare said the thousands of customs officers heading to work on Thursday morning would be disgusted by the reports of corruption.
"My message to them is this: you can expect more stings, you can expect more arrests and you can expect more reform," he said. "If you're corrupt we'll hunt you down and lock you up."
The Australian Government will now establish a Customs Reform Board to provide advice and recommendations to ministers on how to bolster integrity in the agency.
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service acting chief, Michael Pezzullo, said his job now was to drive further integrity reforms.
"I'm not so naive as to think that criminal elements will not attempt to penetrate this service, its systems and its staff," he said. "We're going to root out these cells."