It seemed like a dream come true — a free holiday to Canada complete with new luggage — until the Australian couple involved realized they had unwittingly become drug mules.
Australian Federal Police yesterday said the pair, a 72-year-old man and 64-year-old woman, told customs officials they had some concerns about their bags when they returned to Perth International Airport on Oct. 13.
On examination, about 3.5kg of methamphetamine was found stashed within the lining of each bag, which police reportedly believe were swapped while in Canada.
“The Australian Federal Police will allege the couple were victims of an elaborate scam and were unwitting participants in the drug importation,” police said in a statement.
Authorities said the scam by a bogus Canada-based tour company calling itself “AusCan Tours” apparently targeted older people, offering two tickets to Canada, seven nights’ accommodation and new luggage as a prize.
“The organizers of this scam went to great lengths to provide a facade of legitimacy,” Perth airport police commander David Bachi said.
“Thankfully the travelers contacted customs and didn’t dismiss their concerns, allowing us to make the arrest,” Bachi said.
Authorities arrested a 38-year-old Canadian man at the airport the day the couple returned and have since charged him with the importation of a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.
A raid on a hotel in the Perth suburb of Scarborough uncovered documents allegedly associated with the scam, along with electronic equipment, two suitcases similar to the ones seized at the airport and A$15,000 (US$14,422) in cash.
The customs director at Perth airport, Jan Hill, warned travelers about carrying someone else’s luggage.
“If you’ve been asked to carry something on behalf of another person, make the right choice and alert local authorities,” she said.
“Do not allow another person to pack your bag and do not carry luggage on behalf of another person,” she said.