Media Release: Holiday ticket scam is no winner

Release Date: Friday, October 25 2013, 01:24 PM

This is a joint media release with Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) are warning members of the public about a scam where consumers 'win' a paid overseas holiday and new luggage, unaware they are being used as drug mules.

This unique investigation began on Sunday 13 October 2013 at Perth International Airport when two Perth residents alerted Customs officers about concerns they had with their luggage.

The couple had recently won a competition with a prize of two tickets to Canada, seven nights accommodation and new luggage.

A subsequent x-ray examination showed irregularities in the lining of the suitcases. Further examination revealed approximately three and a half kilograms of methamphetamine hidden in each suitcase.

The AFP will allege the couple were victims of an elaborate scam and were unwitting participants in the drug importation.

Following police inquiries, a 38-year-old Canadian man was arrested at Perth Airport on Sunday 13 October.

Search warrants were conducted at a hotel in Scarborough, where it will be alleged documents associated with this scam, along with electronic equipment, two suitcases (similar to the ones seized at Perth airport) and approximately $15,000 in cash were seized.

The man was charged with Import a Commercial Quantity of a Border Controlled Drug (methamphetamine) contrary to Section 307.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995.

The subsequent investigation has revealed a complex and highly-organised scam in which older Australians appear to be targeted by a bogus Canadian-based tour company identifying itself as 'AUSCAN Tours'.

AFP Perth Airport Police Commander David Bachi said this investigation demonstrates that criminals will try anything to get drugs into Australia.

"The organisers of this scam went to great lengths to provide a façade of legitimacy. Thankfully the travelers contacted Customs and didn't dismiss their concerns, allowing us to make the arrest," said Commander Bachi.

"We will continue working with local and international law enforcement partners, targeting all elements of this drug syndicate."

ACBPS Director Airport Operations Perth, Jan Hill, warned travellers about carrying luggage on behalf of someone else.

"If you've been asked to carry something on behalf of another person, make the right choice and alert local authorities," Ms Hill said.

"Do not allow another person to pack your bag and do not carry luggage on behalf of another person."

The AFP advises anyone who has received a similar offer of travel or may have been a victim of this type of fraud, or have any information about this particular case, to contact the AFP on (131 AFP) or Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000 immediately.

Anyone with information on any other scam should contact Crime Stoppers or Scam Watch.

Investigations into this matter are continuing.

The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment

Media enquiries:
AFP National Media (02) 6131 6333

Customs and Border Protection Media (02) 6275 6793