Drug syndicates have been coercing elderly passengers caught in online scams to smuggle drugs into Australia to pay off their debts.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) say the drug mule trend was exposed following a series of drug detections by the Australian Border Force (ABF) at Sydney International Airport involving elderly and vulnerable passengers since the reopening of international border.
Since October 2021, the AFP has arrested 18 alleged drug mules coming from international flights.
Some of the accused smugglers carrying illicit drugs in their luggage told the AFP they had been “coerced into the role” after they became victims of online financial scams.
AFP Commander Kate Ferry said it was not surprising criminal syndicates were trying out new tactics to bring drugs into the country.
“Criminal syndicates, by their very nature, exploit vulnerable communities and will undertake whatever tactics necessary to import drugs into our country,” she said on Sunday.
“We have unfortunately seen instances where people have not only fallen victim to classic inheritance or investment scams and lost their money, but they are then offered false hope to regain their money, some unwittingly working as drug mules for the criminal syndicate.”
“The consequences for these victims can be severe, including lengthy terms of imprisonment”.
The AFP said two elderly US nationals were caught at Sydney with 15 kg of methamphetamine and 1.5 kg of cocaine stashed in the linings of their luggage.
The US nationals told police they had flown into Zimbabwe where they received the suitcases from the criminal syndicate.
They were forced to act as drug mules after being fleeced out of $US500,000 in an online scam. Their travel arrangements had allegedly been made by a Nigerian and a UK national.
The ABF also arrested two elderly German nationals at Sydney with two suitcases allegedly containing a total of 18kg of methamphetamine.
The couple also told police they had flown into Zimbabwe where the suitcases were provided to them with arrangements made via a UK phone number.
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