Report: Australian Baggage Handlers Suspected of Smuggling Drugs

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Baggage handlers at Australia's busiest airport are suspected of involvement in drug smuggling, according to a leaked report, details of which were published by a national newspaper Tuesday.

The Australian cited a Customs department report saying that baggage handlers stole from passengers' luggage and diverted bags carrying drugs from international flights to domestic baggage carousels to prevent them having to be carried past customs checkpoints.

In one case, the Customs report said one gang of baggage handlers removed bags containing 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of cocaine from an international flight before they could be X-rayed, The Australian reported.

Transport Minister John Anderson said the government has not seen the report, which The Australian said was completed last September, but already has tackled many of the problems it mentions.

"A lot has happened since then," he said. Airport security has come under intense scrutiny since an Australian woman on trial in Indonesia for drug smuggling claimed baggage handlers likely put 4.1 kilograms (nine pounds) of marijuana in her surfboard bag.

The woman, Schapelle Corby, was convicted Friday by a court in Bali of drug smuggling and sentenced to 20 years after judges rejected her defense.

Robert McClelland, the opposition Labor Party's homeland security spokesman, said the report showed security at Australia's busiest international airport is "a farce."

"Clearly there is an indication of criminality involving baggage handlers and drug smuggling in our airports," he told reporters. "It beggars belief why this wasn't provided to or at least some of this information was not provided to the Schapelle Corby defense."

The company that runs Sydney Airport declined comment on the report, saying it had not seen its contents.

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