The Australian Federal Police is warning the community, particularly Iranians living in Australia, of the dangers of unsolicited job offers to receive and store international packages. This follows a spate of illicit drug imports linked to organised crime.
According to the AFP, it is seeing an increasing number of Iranian expats living in Australia being targeted by a scheme that recruits innocent people who believe they are working for a legitimate business.
Members of other communities now living in Australia may also have approached in this way.
Targeting trend has emerged in Victoria
AFP Commander of Investigations, Todd Hunter, said the trend had emerged in Victoria in recent years and was likely occurring across the country, with some members of the Iranian community unwittingly receiving methamphetamine drug imports intended for onward distribution by alleged Middle Eastern organised crime syndicates.
The scheme involves strangers contacting Iranian expats known to be living in Australia, along with other victims who are approached by distant acquaintances and relatives in Iran.
“We are aware of a growing pattern where an overseas recruiter will target and contact an Iranian expat living in Australia over social media to offer them employment distributing goods such as car polish, picture frames and decorative stones from Iran,” Hunter explained.
“Members of the community targeted by the criminal syndicate are offered lucrative pay for receiving and storing a package at their home, before it is collected by another unknown person.”
Beware of work that’s ‘too good to be true’
He said the latter are allegedly connected to the criminal syndicate distributing the illicit drugs within Australia.
“We are warning members of the community to be vigilant to these schemes. Receiving a substantial payment for the simple task of receiving goods and passing them along should raise alarm bells – if the job opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Hunter stated.
“Importing and possession of border-controlled drugs are Commonwealth offences and can result in criminal prosecution which can lead to penalties of up to life imprisonment. We want to ensure innocent people are not caught up in the work of criminal syndicates through these illicit schemes,” Hunter said.
In one such example, a 52 year old Melbourne man was contacted over WhatsApp by a former Iranian religious leader residing in the Middle-East. He offered the Iranian expat a job opportunity to distribute Iranian agricultural products for sale in Australia.
Several shipments sent to a Melbourne man
The man soon informed the expat that he would be sent a consignment of car polish and someone would make contact to collect it from him.
Several similar shipments arrived over a number of months and were each collected by strangers. The Iranian expat was paid several hundred dollars on each occasion.
Australian Border Force (ABF) officers then intercepted a car polish package sent to the man and confirmed it contained 2.5 kilograms of liquid methamphetamine.
The subsequent investigation led to the arrest of several people, although the expat who received the packages was not charged as he was deemed to be an innocent victim.