A classified intelligence operation has alleged that up to 150 Qantas staff are linked to criminality, including the importation of drugs, according to an investigation by The Sydney Morning Herald.
The newspaper said that “bikies and other organised crime groups” were among employees suspected of wrongdoing that “represents a very high threat to the Australian border”.
Qantas Group chief security officer Luke Bramah told Australian Aviation on Sunday night, “We have not been advised of any current investigations of Qantas Group employees involved in organised crime. If concerns are raised regarding any of our employees, we will actively support their investigation and take appropriate action.
“To be clear, none of Australia’s law enforcement agencies have told us of the existence of a report that suggests there are potentially 150 Qantas employees who have connections to organised crime. Nor have they raised concerns with us about our vetting or background checking processes.”
The newspaper said it had spoken to “official sources” that said the most concerning of the suspected “trusted insiders” was a Comanchero motorcycle gang affiliate who is linked to international drug cartel boss Hakan Ayik.
It said the person is working in a “mid-level managerial position” at Qantas’ Sydney Airport operation and had recruited criminals to “help import narcotics”.
The intelligence operation, which the newspaper said is called Project Brunello, found in a June 2020 report that Qantas insiders were linked to crime that could cause “significant harm” to Australia’s borders by facilitating smuggling.
Other individuals identified include a “Hells Angels-linked figure” in the NT “working as a Qantas contractor”.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission inquiry also apparently uncovered five airline staff with links to “national security” criminality involving Islamic extremism”, found 60 staff linked to “serious drug offences” or “organised crime” and 23 “used employment in the aviation environment to facilitate various criminal activities”.
A further seven staff were linked to “child exploitation”. The newspaper said the claims were based on “years of intelligence holdings” as well as an examination of employee records.
However, Qantas’ Bramah added, “We’ve written to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AFP, Border Force and Aviation and Maritime Security seeking details of the report.
“Qantas is the only commercial airline that holds a Trusted Trader accreditation with Australian Border Force, which means every single employee connected to international air freight must pass a fit and proper test. We’ve not been advised by Border Force of any of our employees failing this test.
“While Australia does have world-leading aviation security, of course, more can be done to help reduce the risk of people working in the industry trying to take advantage of their position to commit crimes such as drug smuggling.
“There are multiple checks and balances in place already that we know work, but we have been strong supporters of introducing intelligence checks for all ASIC holders. We’re pleased that the federal government is working to get this through Parliament.
“In addition to the criminal checks that happen every two years, we’d like to see real-time background checks, which means airlines and airports know immediately if an employee has been convicted of an offence, because it’s another safeguard. We have had positive conversations with the government about this over a number of years.”
More to follow…