After a 91-year-old man was nabbed with cocaine at Sydney Airport last month and charged yesterday, Australian authorities have warned the public about the dangers of falling for scams that result in people becoming drug couriers for overseas criminal syndicates.
The 91-year-old man from the northwest Sydney suburb of Epping was charged by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) with importing about 4.5 kilograms of cocaine into Sydney from India. The maximum penalty for the offence is life imprisonment.
The man was stopped by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers after flying into Sydney Airport from New Delhi on 8 July 2015.
A search of the man’s luggage discovered 27 packages of soap. Presumptive testing of the soap showed positive readings for cocaine. The man was then referred to the AFP.
AFP Acting National Manager Aviation Wayne Buchhorn said the travelling public should be aware that if you knowingly, or unwittingly, bring drugs back into the country you may be charged.
“Claiming ignorance of drugs hidden inside your luggage does not automatically mean you will not face criminal charges,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Buchhorn said.
“People can expect they will be charged if they knowingly bring drugs into Australia, or are reckless or wilfully blind to the fact that there could be narcotics concealed inside their luggage or items they are carrying.”
ABF Regional Commander NSW, Tim Fitzgerald, said travellers should be aware of their responsibilities when it comes to luggage.
“Luggage is a personal responsibility. If you’ve been asked to carry something on behalf of another person, be sure you know exactly what is inside.
“We recommend that you do not allow another person to pack your bag and do not carry luggage on behalf of another person.”
The 91-year-old man was charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely cocaine, contrary to Section 307.1 of the Criminal Code (Cth) and was scheduled to face Sydney Central Local Court yesterday. The maximum penalty for the offence is life imprisonment.
The AFP has the following message for travellers, which travel agents may pass on to their clients:
If you are overseas and believe you may be a victim of this sort of scam, do not accept any property from scammers or provide them with any personal details. You can contact the DFAT emergency consular centre if you require assistance on +61262613305.
If you are in Australia and believe you may have been a victim of a scam, received a similar offer of travel, or have any information about crime syndicates carrying out activities such as this, you are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. You can also call Border Watch to report suspicious activities on 1800 009 623.
Edited by Peter Needham