Fri, Dec 21, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Canberra overhauls customs service after graft arrests


Australia yesterday announced an overhaul of its customs service after eight people were arrested in a corruption investigation linked to an alleged drugs ring at Sydney airport.

“I am working on major structural and cultural reforms to Customs and will announce them next year,” Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said. “There is no place for corruption in our law enforcement agencies. Where it exists we have to weed it out.”

The move follows the recent arrests of a customs officer, another from the quarantine service and six civilains a two-year probe. They have been charged with a range of offences including drug trafficking, receiving bribes and abuse of public office.

Police said the inquiry was continuing amid allegations that an “entrenched network” of corrupt customs officers at Sydney airport have been working with organized crime figures to import drugs.

A six-month investigation by Fairfax Media and the Australian Broadcasting Corp said up to 20 officials were suspected of being involved in importing pseudoephedrine, cocaine, steroids and possibly weapons.

Australian Customs and Border Protection Service acting chief Michael Pezzullo said he was disappointed, but not surprised by the revelations.

“We identified that we had a potential problem at Sydney International Airport and took appropriate investigative activity. This action continues,” he said. “We will review as required the role of workplace culture, management and leadership and take all necessary action to ensure the integrity of our workforce.

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