An international drug-smuggling cartel has infiltrated Australian flag carrier Qantas with as many as 150 current employees helping the organised crime gang get an estimated A$1.5 billion (USD$1.16 billion) worth of drugs into Australia every year according to an investigation by local media.
Qantas’ chief security officer Luke Bramah described the claims as “disturbing” but said the airline had not been made aware of any current investigations involving Qantas employees. The airline works closely with Australian law enforcement agencies and has previously helped the authorities snare rogue employees.
“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,” Bramah commented after the claims made headlines on Monday.
The drug smuggling syndicate is said to involve high-level players in Dubai, Turkey and Hong Kong. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, which has nicknamed the gang the ‘Aussie Cartel’, believes it may be responsible for as much as a third of illegal drug importations across Australia’s borders.
A classified intelligence operation going by the name Project Brunello claims that a “significant” number of Qantas employees have been recruited by the gang to help import its illicit cargo into Australia.
Although all Qantas employees have to be security vetted, local reports claim as many as 60 Qantas staffers were linked to “serious drug offences” or “organised crime groups”.
Bramah said he had written to the ACIC, as well as the Australian Federal Police, Border Force and Aviation and Maritime Security to seek details of the report. The airline, he added, would actively support any investigation and take appropriate action.
Qantas employees have to renew their security clearance every two years but Bramah said he would like to see real-time vetting that would immediately flag any worker who has been convicted of any offence.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.