An X-ray view of the Canadian woman's bag, provided by Australian authorities.
A scan of the woman’s luggage is said to have revealed several anomalies.
Drugs allegedly found inside a Canadian woman’s luggage at Sydney’s main airport.
When Australian border agents targeted her for an examination and her luggage was X-rayed, the images allegedly revealed several anomalies
A Canadian woman travelling to Australia with her young son was caught at the airport with a large load of cocaine in her luggage, according to Australian police.
While the 42-year-old woman was held in custody with her first court appearance scheduled for Canada Day, Australian child welfare authorities and Canadian consular officials were discussing the care of her child until he can return to his family in Canada, the Australian Border Force (ABF) said.
The woman, who was identified only as L. Roberts, arrived at Sydney International Airport on a flight from Canada with three large suitcases and her young son on June 30. Australian border agents targeted her for an examination and her luggage was X-rayed.
The X-ray images revealed several anomalies, the agency said.
“ABF officers discovered a white powdery substance concealed within the lining of the suitcases. Initial testing returned a presumptive positive result for cocaine, with a total weight of approximately 12 kilograms,” officials said.
She was arrested by officers with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) based at the airport and charged with one count of importing a commercial quantity of cocaine.
The maximum penalty for this offence is life imprisonment.
This is the latest in a spate of Canadians arrested trying to smuggle popular street drugs into Australia, where many drugs command higher prices due to high demand and the difficulty of importing it into the island country.
Canada is the third most frequent embarkation point for cocaine seized at the Australian border, behind the United States and South Africa but ahead of Mexico, according to the most recent data available from the Australian Institute of Criminology.
Much of the smuggling is backed by organized crime groups. The AFP said they are working with the RCMP in Canada and police in other countries to tackle the problem.
“Our message to Canadians is our intelligence sharing is robust — they can expect Australian law enforcement to be well aware of what is happening overseas and the threats to our borders. Australia’s border detection capabilities are excellent and they can expect to be caught,” an AFP spokesperson told the National Post.
“The market for drugs in Australia is strong, but the ability of Australian law enforcement agencies to work together with international partners against organized crime has never been stronger. The offshore disruption of criminal groups and infiltrating organized crime is a key part of our role and part of the solution.”
Some of the Canadian arrests have attracted significant international attention.
In 2015, four young Canadians and an American were stopped and arrested at Sydney airport after nearly 40 kg of cocaine was found in their suitcases. All five pleaded guilty in Australia to importing commercial quantities of cocaine and received significant prison time.
Their trials in Australia heard that Yaroslav Pastukhov, who, at the time, was the music editor at Vice Canada in Toronto, arranged their trips, as was previously documented by the National Post . The trial heard that a Mexican drug cartel might have been involved.
This January, the RCMP arrested Pastukhov, whose pen name was Slava Pastuk, along with Ali Taki Lalji, a former sales agent for Vice Canada. They stand charged with conspiracy to import cocaine and were released on bail with trials pending in Toronto.
Last year, a group of three other Canadians pleaded guilty to importing drugs into Australia, including two glamorous Quebec women caught with suitcases full of cocaine on a luxury cruise ship after documenting their journey with racy photos.
The arrests of the women captured headlines around the world, partly because of the amount of cocaine seized — valued by police at $30 million and the largest drug cache found aboard a passenger ship in Australia — but mostly because of the trove of glamour photos Isabelle Lagace, 30, and Mélina Roberge, 25, had shared of their luxurious cruise on social media.
Other Canadians were also arrested in recent years.
“The growth in transnational and organized crime threats is driving the need for even more coordinated international law enforcement cooperation and this is strengthening all the time,” the AFP said.
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