If you're corrupt we'll hunt you down'

The discovery of a sophisticated drug smuggling racket allegedly involving Sydney Airport Customs officers has prompted the establishment of a reform board to ensure the service is clean.

Two Customs officers, one officer from the quarantine service and five members of the public have been charged following a joint investigation involving the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI).

The operation, codenamed Marca, started nearly two years ago but one of the accused Customs officers began work as early as 2006. Authorities will also review the travel patterns of two alleged drug mules before the start of operation Marca.

One of the young women, a professional dancer, is associated with businessman Jim Byrnes who yesterday offered A$20,000 ($25,000) surety when she applied for bail in a Sydney court.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said more arrests were possible and he had a message for the estimated 5000 Customs officers.

"You can expect more stings, you can expect more arrests and you can expect more reform. If you're corrupt we'll hunt you down and lock you up."

Customs identified what it believed was potential evidence of corruption at Sydney Airport in January and referred its suspicions to the ACLEI.

Customs acting chief Michael Pezzullo said he was disappointed but not surprised by the corruption revelations.

"I'm not so naive as to think that criminal elements will not attempt to penetrate this service, its systems and its staff," he said.

Clare announced the federal Government would be establishing a Customs Reform Board which would provide him with advice and recommendations on how to bolster integrity in the agency. The board members will be former royal commission head Justice James Wood, former NSW police commissioner Ken Moroney and former TNT chief executive David Mortimer.

AFP Commissioner Tony Negus said the investigation may result in more arrests and there were fears more imports may have entered the country before it began.

Customs under investigation

*Adrian Paul Lamella, 28, customs officer, from Burwood, charged with receiving bribes, drug possession and importation and possessing prohibited weapons.

*Paul John Katralis, 26, customs officer, from Menai, appeared on Wednesday, first appeared in August.

*Svetlana Colakovic, 35, AQIS officer, from Caringbah, charged with receiving a corrupt benefit and other corruption offences.

*Annette Ilse Talbot, 22, alleged drug mule, from North Sydney, charged with drug importation offences.

*Krystal Hill, 27, alleged drug mule, from Abbotsford, charged with drug importation offences.

*Joseph Harb, 27, from Ashfield, first appeared in August, due to be sentenced on January 16.

*Isabel Martin, 20, from Swansea, first appeared in August, committal hearing on March 1.

*Sean Liam Hutchison, 28, first appeared in October, committal hearing on March 1.


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