– The federal government has admitted the culture of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service needs a major overhaul, following allegations that some if its officers have been involved in drug trafficking, money laundering and organised crime.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said Thursday that a new board had been appointed to root out corruption in the customs service, including Justice James Wood, who oversaw a royal commission that exposed corruption in the New South Wales police force.

But he said details on how the structure and culture of the customs service would be reformed would not be announced until next year.

A six-month joint investigation between Fairfax Media and the ABC’s “7:30 Report” has revealed that at least 15 officials in Sydney Airport border security posts are suspected of involvement in serious misconduct or corruption. The number may be as high as 20.

Their alleged conduct ranges from criminal association and leaking information to drug trafficking, drug manufacturing, money laundering and bribery.

The Australian Federal Police announced on Thursday that eight people had been arrested over suspected airport drug trading, including a customs officer and a quarantine inspector. They are believed to be members of a syndicate exploiting major gaps in airport and customs security at Sydney Airport.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said it would be alleged that couriers were sent overseas to collect drugs before returning through customs with the help of people in trusted positions.

“Certainly, what has been alleged before the courts so far is that the customs officers involved in this would meet drug couriers off the plane,” he said.

“They would then walk them through the primary line of customs and then out into the waiting hall, so they would facilitate their entry through the normal checks and the normal law-enforcement processes that everyone goes through when they enter this country.

“It will be alleged that they (the customs officers) certainly played a role in organising the couriers themselves to go overseas, and to actually facilitate their collection of the narcotics oversea, and then again played a key role in bringing them back through the airport without any detection or any scrutiny from the normal process.”

Mr Clare said three distinguished Australians had been appointed to the new Customs Reform Board, which would report directly to him. They are Justice Wood, former NSW police commissioner Ken Moroney, and David Mortimer, the former CEO of TNT Limited, former deputy chairman of Ansett and former chairman Australia Post and Leighton Holdings.

Major reforms had already been introduced to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service this year as a result of the AFP investigation, including covert operations to test the integrity of customs officers, and drug and alcohol testing, Mr Clare said.

Customs and Border Protection Service acting chief Michael Pelluzzo said he was disappointed but not surprised by the corruption revelations.

He said nobody had been stood down from their jobs – Megan Levy and Harriet Alexander


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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