REPORT: Qantas infiltrated by organized criminal networks posing a threat to national security
Australian authorities say the Qantas flag bearer has been infiltrated by employees with ties to organized crime networks who could be used to import illegal drugs and who also pose a risk to national security, according to multiple media outlets. A classified federal law enforcement intelligence operation, dubbed Project Brunello, has determined that a “significant” number of Qantas employees – up to 150 – are linked to crime. The operation describes alleged wrongdoing which is “serious and poses a very high threat to the Australian border,” according to a report published in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Other reports cite official Australian sources as saying that one of the alleged “trusted insiders” within Qantas was a member of the Comanchero motorcycle gang linked to the boss of the international drug cartel, Hakan Ayik. The person holds a mid-level managerial position in Qantas Sydney Airport operations and intelligence suggests he recruited criminals into the airline to help import narcotics, according to reports.
The revelations raise serious questions for both the airline and the federal government and come after landmark investigations warn of evolving security gaps at ports and airports.
Qantas Group Security Officer Luke Bramah said in a statement posted on the Qantas website that “As we follow all government vetting procedures, we find these claims troubling. We have not been made aware of any ongoing investigations into Qantas Group employees involved in organized crime. If concerns are raised about any of our employees, we will actively support their investigation and take appropriate action. “
He said Qantas was the only commercial airline to hold Trusted Trader accreditation with the Australian Border Force, “which means that every employee connected to international air cargo must pass a proficiency and quality test. We have not been informed by Border Force that any of our employees have failed this test. While Australia has industry-leading aviation security, of course, more can be done to help reduce the risk of people working in the industry attempting to take advantage of their position to commit crimes such as drug trafficking. . There are already many checks and balances that we know work, but we have been strong supporters of introducing intelligence checks for all ASIC holders. We are pleased that the federal government is working to get this passed through Parliament.
“In addition to the criminal checks that take place every two years, we would like to see real-time background checks,” added Bramah, “which means airlines and airports know immediately if an employee has been convicted. of an offense, because that is another guarantee. We have had positive conversations with the government on this subject for several years. “
The Brunello Project found in its July 2020 report that the “trusted insiders” of Australia’s largest airline have ties to organized crime and may have “caused significant harm” to the Australian community by facilitating the smuggling across borders. Official sources familiar with the report said the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission investigation found that some Qantas staff were creating “vulnerabilities in the security of supply chains and critical infrastructure” that could erode public confidence in border security and in the reputation of the airline.
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