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Travellers warned about new drug-mule scam

Travellers are being warned about an emerging scam that involves transporting illicit drugs for criminals claiming to be United Nations officials.

Dec 11, 2023, updated Dec 11, 2023

The Australian Federal Police arrested two alleged drug mules in separate incidents in Melbourne, each of whom claimed to be a victim of the UN officer scam.

Criminals behind the scam offer travellers up to $35 million to transport a suitcase into Australia on behalf of someone purporting to be from the UN.

In July, border force officers examined the luggage of a 39-year-old Western Australian man, who arrived in Melbourne from Singapore, and allegedly found three kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in the lining.

The substance was seized and the man was arrested.

Within 24 hours, a second passenger was arrested when arriving at Melbourne Airport from Thailand after officers allegedly detected heroin inside his luggage.

The New Zealander, 77, allegedly attempted to import two kilograms of heroin concealed in the lining of his suitcase.

Officers said both travellers, who did not know each other, told them that they had been asked to transport the luggage in exchange for a lucrative payment by a person claiming to work for the UN.

The men were charged with serious drug import offences that carry a maximum penalty of up to life imprisonment.

The WA man remains before the courts while the New Zealand man was released on a six-month good behaviour bond.

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AFP Commander Raegan Stewart said transnational serious organised crime syndicates targeted Australia as a lucrative market for illicit drugs.

“This United Nations drug-mule scam is just another attempt by criminal syndicates who are desperate to import harmful illicit drugs and substances into our country,” she said.

“It shows offenders will go to any lengths to bring illicit substances into our community, including scamming travellers offshore to do their dirty work.”

The AFP had zero tolerance for anyone who attempted to import illicit substances into our country, Stewart added.

“The AFP urge anyone travelling to our country who has been approached by an individual offering them a job opportunity to transport luggage in exchange for lucrative amounts of money, we warn them to think twice,” he said.

“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

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