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Customs Officers Arrested As Part Of Organised Crime Raids

The Age reported the raids were part of a broader series of police operations which also led to the arrest of two Border Force officers.

10/08/2017 12:39 PM AEST | Updated 10/08/2017 12:45 PM AEST
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The AFP said the raids stopped more than 200kg of MDMA from coming into the country.

Members of a cell of allegedly corrupt Customs officers have been arrested as part of a series of organised crime-busting raids across NSW and Dubai.

Earlier this week, NSW and Federal police raided up to 50 properties in an effort to smash two crime syndicates. The raids led to the arrest of prominent identities Fadi and Michael Ibrahim in Dubai.

But on Thursday, The Age reported the raids were part of a broader series of police operations which also led to the arrest of two Border Force officers -- one current and one former -- who were the latest of several allegedly corrupt insiders who, since 2003, allegedly compromised Sydney Airport and Port Botany.

Public servant Craig Richard Eakin has faced court charged with multiple offences including illegally importing tobacco and accessing data with intent to commit an offence.

Key points:

  • Police allege former employee of the border and customs protection service, Johayna Merhi, "utilised their knowledge and expertise to assist" organised crime;
  • Current Border Force employee Craig Richard Eakin has faced court charged with multiple offences in relation to the importation of illegal tobacco;
  • Brothers Ali and Abs Jomaa were arrested in the Sydney raids -- in all eight figures were arrested;
  • Police allege the first insider cultivated by the Jomaa syndicate was Officer X, as he is known for legal reasons. He was hired in the early 2000s had 11 mobile phones registered in fake names such as "James Packer";
  • Another officer, Officer Y, let a Jomaa syndicate member use the ABF gym, raising suspicions Officer Y was using his access to the ABF computer system to check on cargo movements on behalf of the Jomaa syndicate;
  • AFP is still investigating allegations a small number of other Border Force staff may be corrupt.

The Age reports the main beneficiary is allegedly the criminal Jomaa syndicate, which police allege smuggles drugs and tobacco past Australia's border.

"During this operation, we have uncovered some allegations of corrupt activity, which this syndicate exploited to try and get their drugs into the country," an AFP Spokesman told reporters on Wednesday.

"(We have) worked very closely with the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to investigate these issues, which uncovered allegedly corrupt officials working with border authorities."

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Thursday congratulated Federal Police on the arrests and committed to weeding out corrupt influences.

"This besmirches 5,500 officers who do a great job, and the Government has put a lot of money to make sure we can stamp out any corruption," he said.

"Like any law enforcement agency, whether it's the Australian Federal Police, the New South Wales Police, Queensland or Victoria, wherever it be, we have the same resolve to weed out those people that would do the wrong thing."

Eakin appeared in Sydney's Central Local Court on Wednesday. He did not apply for bail and it was formally refused. He is expected to reappear on October 25.

The arrests raise questions about how the Jomaa syndicate was able to influence customs for so many years.

The ABC reports investigations went back to 2010, when then chief executive of Customs and Border Protection, Michael Carmody, wrote to the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Tony Negus.

The letter said a Customs officer had been identified as having close ties to the Jomaa syndicate and others allegedly involved in narcotics trafficking.

On Tuesday, more than 570 AFP officers as well as a number of officers from the New South Wales Police Force raided numerous properties as part of a separate operation called Veyder.

Police searched the homes of Fadi and John Ibrahim in Dover Heights and Michael and Fadi Ibrahim were arrested in Dubai as part of an investigation into the importation of MDMA, or ecstasy.

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