Six people, including four employees at the San Diego International Airport, appeared in US Federal Court on the morning of March 18. They were accused of smuggling illicit drugs through airport security at Lindbergh Field. Four baggage handlers from the international airport were charged with smuggling cocaine and methamphetamine. They were able to pass the drugs through security screenings. They were arrested in a federal agent sweep after years of trafficking drugs through the airport.
In another unrelated incident, on April 4, three former airport employees of King Airport, in St Thomas, were sentenced after pleading guilty to charges of drug trafficking out of the island airport. According to the federal indictment, the airport employees used their positions at the airport to transport cocaine. One of them was a baggage handler. He marked checked luggage containing narcotics with coloured scarves to facilitate the baggage passing through security.
On March 27, journalist Renee Viellaris in Queensland’s Courier Mail reported that a crime syndicate “exploited serious security failures at major domestic airports to fly more than two tonnes of cannabis on domestic flights bound for Brisbane.”
Viellaris reported, “Police will allege that since November, a cashed-up crime gang packed about 22kg of cannabis into everyday baggage boarding about 40 flights from Victoria to Brisbane.”
Viellaris reported that Federal Transport Minister Warren Truss “refused to comment”, dropping a cone of silence much in line with the ten year long silence on alleged airport corruption since the arrest of Schapelle Corby.
More than ten years ago former Australian customs officer and investigator, Allan Kessing found huge security breaches and rife airport corruption and drugs trafficking at Sydney airport, and he argued that this was indicative of all major Australian airports. Mr Kessing told me that at the time of the arrest of Ms Corby he believed her release would only be a “formality” as Australian Governments were fully aware of the extensiveness of drugs trafficking through our airports. He believed that the Australian Government would scrub up with the truth but this was not to be. Months after the arrest of Ms Corby, and with the Government’s silence now solid, Mr Kessing’s 2002 and 2003 Sydney Airport security reviews found their way to media outlets. In an unprecedented first for Australia, Mr Kessing was charged and prosecuted for the “leaking” of his two reviews.
Mr Kessing’s reviews had been “suppressed” so not to damage commercial imperatives associated with the lucrative industry that is passenger travel. Mr Kessing said that more than 50,000 passengers fly out each day from Sydney Airport alone.
When I first began to inquire and report on Schapelle Corby’s predicament I wrote, “The story of Ms Corby threatens to draw attention to myriad layers of corruption – corruption of process, Government corruption, corruption within our airports and within Customs. A royal commission should be held into the Australian Government and of its agencies into their conduct in all matters relating to Schapelle Corby.”
I have now dug so deep into finding out the truth that the statement you just read can no longer capture the despicability of a human life thrown to the wolves, her reputation pilloried at every turn.
“Truth is no defence,” said Mr Kessing. Mr Kessing’s reports are a must-read and his interview with me, a must-listen.
The Interview with Mr Kessing – here:
Ms Corby was let down by the Australian Government which did not come to her defence, nor admitted to our nation’s corrupted airport services. The Indonesian Government had wanted Australia to own up to and then do more about remedying airport services corruption, which would mean less illicit drugs trafficked into Indonesia. Ms Corby was victimised by political expediency, but such bartering of human dignity and even life, by one’s own Government, shames to no end our Government. No paltry excuses such as national security, geopolitical reasons, nor the line of Indonesian ‘sovereignty’ wash. Every Prime Minister, Minister, senior bureaucrat, every head of any relevant Government, who knew of the extent of the rife airport corruption and drugs trafficking and who has not spoken up should be who should have languished in Kerobokan, till they sorted their moral compass.
Last year, WikiLeaks Publishing Organisation released ‘The Global Intelligence Files’ – over five million emails – from the Texan-based global intelligence analytic giant Stratfor. One of the emails was from Stratfor intelligence tactical analyst, Marko Primorac.
“Moving marijuana through international borders is big business.” Throughout the email Mr Primorac reports that random passengers’ luggage are picked out to stash illicit substances – unknowing drug mules. Mr Primorac reports that this practice is commonplace throughout airports.
In reference to Ms Corby, Mr Primorac stated, “Several baggage agents can work together to ensure packages are placed in an unsuspecting mule’s luggage. These smuggling teams place packages in luggage belonging to uninvolved passengers like Schapelle Corby, who did not even know the marijuana was in her bag. Unscrupulous? Yes. However, this is how millions of pounds of marijuana get shipped in the US and around the globe. It’s bad news if the unwitting mule gets jail time. If the pot is intercepted, as it was in Schapelle Corby’s case or if the mule figures out what’s going on and keeps the goods.”
For a more comprehensive understanding on the disturbing nature of drugs trafficking around the world you can read the WikiLeaks-released Stratfor cable in its entirety here.
Last year some members of a small crime syndicate were sentenced for drugs trafficking through Sydney Airport. One of those sentenced was a corrupted Sydney Airport customs officer, Paul Katralis. Little did he know that the Australian Federal Police would catch him out in Operation Mocha. But this sting to catch him out is only one straw of the bale according to Mr Kessing and to Mr Primorac and according to other independent reviews. In 2004, on the day Ms Corby went through Sydney’s airports – domestic and international, the NSW Crimes Commission anti-drugs surveillance drugs squad were at Sydney Airport, with Operation Mocha in place, waiting to bust a cocaine shipment from South America. The airport baggage handlers were spooked and did not retrieve the cannabis planted in Ms Corby’s luggage at Brisbane Domestic. The head of Operation Mocha, was disgraced NSW Crimes Commission assistant-director Mark Standen, now jailed for up to 20 years for drugs trafficking. To note, Operation Mocha missed catching out the cocaine shipment from South America!
Then there is the United Nations 2007 World Drugs Report. Mr Kessing said to me, “In my 15 years as a customs officer I have never heard of any report before or since Schapelle Corby of anyone trying to traffick cannabis to Indonesia. It’s like sending coals to Newcastle, it just does not happen.” The UN report found the average Australian street price per gram of cannabis at $26.20 USD while the average Indonesia street price per gram of cannabis was reported at 20 cents USD. That is a $26 USD differential. 4.2 kilograms of cannabis was found in Ms Corby’s boogie board bag. The Australian street value would have been $110,040 USD while the Indonesian street value would have been $840 USD. That the news media bypasses this vital fact should disturb everyone.
The UN report includes the conclusion, “Sale of cannabis purchased in Australia would be a profitable business model (approx. 423 per cent return on investment) whereas the same business model applied to Indonesia would result in substantial losses and would be unsustainable as a business.”
For more information on the street value of cannabis go to the United Nations World Drugs Report 2007 – refer to pages 232 to 236 –here.
It is a national disgrace and shame that there is no public national inquiry into the extensiveness of corruption and drugs trafficking through Australian airports. It is long overdue, not just for Ms Corby but also for what is right in the common good.
The Australian Crimes Commission should stand up and do its bit and publicly expose the extensiveness of the corruption within airports and the fact of unwitting drug mules. The Australian Crimes Commission should also expose every Australian Government parliamentarian, past and present, and every major agency’s high-end officers and commissioners who knew of the extensiveness of the airport corruption, and then indict them for suppressing this vital public interest information.