Operation JETENGINE: Crack down on airline crew members involved in illicit drug supply and use

Some crew members were caught smuggling high-value dutiable goods and undeclared currency, violating Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing legislation.

The Australian Border Force (ABF), in collaboration with partner agencies, has intensified efforts to tackle criminal activity within the aviation supply chain through Operation JETENGINE.

This high-visibility disruption operation at Melbourne International Airport aims to identify, monitor, and disrupt illicit activities in the aviation sectors across Victoria and Tasmania.

ABF officers, particularly those in Air Border Security teams at Melbourne International Airport, are focused on employees exploiting their access to customs-controlled areas for criminal purposes. These officers are adept at detecting vulnerabilities within the aviation supply chain, utilising advanced tools and technology to thwart criminal activities.

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Over the past 12 months, Operation JETENGINE has achieved significant milestones:

  • Inspected over 1,300 arriving and departing commercial aircraft.
  • Examined up to 500 airline crew and employees.
  • Conducted more than 1,000 vehicle and foot patrols.
  • Checked over 350 Aviation Security Identification Card (ASIC) holders, identifying 70 breaches.

During the operation, officers uncovered evidence of airline crew members involved in illicit drug use and the domestic distribution of illicit substances.

Additionally, international airline crew members were found with illicit cigarettes and tobacco products concealed within false bottom suitcases, attempting to evade significant duty amounts. Some crew members were caught smuggling high-value dutiable goods and undeclared currency, violating Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing legislation.

Two international crew members were detected under the influence of illicit substances while on duty, resulting in the cancellation of at least one international crew travel authority (visa).

The ABF’s efforts also extended beyond the airport precinct, completing over 1,000 foot patrols and identifying aviation security vulnerabilities, including the removal of a squatter from an abandoned building.

More than 1,300 search activities were undertaken on aircraft both arriving and departing Melbourne International Airport. These searches aimed to ensure compliance with customs regulations, including inspections of flight decks, sleeping cabins, and cargo spaces.

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In addition to enforcement actions, the ABF has engaged in over 70 industry engagements to educate, foster relationships, and encourage the reporting of suspected criminal activity in the aviation environment.

Superintendent Kelly-Anne Parish highlighted the ongoing nature of Operation JETENGINE, with referrals to domestic and international law enforcement partners concerning individuals linked to trans-national organised crime groups.

“Our officers are committed to detecting, deterring, and disrupting criminal activity in the aviation environment through world’s best practice activity, intelligence, and training,” Superintendent Parish said.

“ABF officers are called upon for their expertise recognised by international law enforcement partners and have been working closely with the World Customs Organization (WCO) to establish a best practice approach in tackling the threat of trusted insiders at airports.

“They work closely with Industry who have an invested interest in protecting and securing the aviation supply chain and are pivotal to safeguarding this environment.

“Ensuring a safe environment from criminal exploitation of the aviation supply chain for the Australian community and those who work in the aviation industry is a top priority for the ABF, and I strongly encourage those working in the aviation industry or members of the public who have information on persons conducting criminal activity at airports to report it.”

Operation JETENGINE continues to ensure that the aviation supply chain remains secure and free from criminal exploitation, reinforcing the ABF’s commitment to protecting Australia’s borders.

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