Australian airline Qantas said it was “disturbed” after learning of reports that organized crime had infiltrated the company to support drug smuggling efforts.
Local newspaper and “60 Minutes” articles alleged that a member of a Comanchero “motorcycle” (or biker) gang was working as Qantas manager at Sydney Airport, allowing him to recruit criminals and to strengthen drug importation activities.
The reports were based on an operation codenamed Project Brunello, which linked around 150 Qantas employees to criminal activity, according to the BBC.
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Those aware of the matter cannot speak publicly about the related details, but the Sydney Morning Herald quoted a source who described the matter as “serious” and posing “a very great threat to the Australian border”.
The activity may be linked to a group of nine men involved in a criminal syndicate dubbed by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) as the “Aussie Cartel” – a group potentially responsible for around a third of drug imports in China. Australia.
Possible members include a Hells Angels boss living between Greece and the United Arab Emirates, a figure linked to the Triad, and nationals of Dubai, Lebanon and Turkey.
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Qantas Group Security Officer Luke Bramah said that “as we follow all government vetting procedures, we find these claims troubling.”
“We have not been informed of any ongoing investigation into Qantas Group employees involved in organized crime,” said a statement from Bramah. “If concerns are raised regarding any of our employees, we will actively support their investigation and take appropriate action.”
Criminal activity could amount to around A $ 1.5 billion ($ 1.16 billion) in drugs smuggled across the Australian border per year, VICE reported.
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“They share supply routes, they share logistics supply chains,” said commission chief Michael Phelan. “They share the gates or the path to Australia with each other. They share any corrupt networks they may have here to exchange information.”
“I don’t care if I play fair either,” added Phelan. “Absolutely, we are chasing them and we make no apologies.”
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Phelan explained that the commission, working with federal police and agencies across Australia, will seek innovative ways to locate and apprehend suspects, including ad hoc extradition arrangements and target members of the family or known associates in Australia who help the cartel.
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