Iranian expats are being targeted by organised crime to act as drug mules, receiving and storing international packages containing illegal drugs, Australian Federal Police say.
The force has issued a warning to the Iranian community and others following a spate of recent incidents.
In one case a 52-year-old man was contacted over Whatsapp by a former Iranian religious leader in the Middle-East who organised a number of shipments of car polish to Australia.
But when one package sent to the man was intercepted it was found to contain 2.5 kilograms of liquid methamphetamine.
The AFP said in an increasing number of incidents innocent people were being targeted and believed they were working for legitimate businesses. The scheme sometimes involved people being recruited by distant acquaintances and relatives in Iran.
Investigations Commander Todd Hunter said the trend emerged in Victoria in recent years and was likely to be occurring across the country.
“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,” he said.
“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, who is allegedly connected to the criminal syndicate distributing the illicit drugs.”
Commander Hunter said 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,” he said.
“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.”
Acting Australian Border Force Commander Nick Walker said organised crime groups would use different methods to further their illicit activity, including exploiting loose social connections to recruit unsuspecting victims.
“In the same way that travellers should not carry items for other people, less well known is the danger associated with receiving goods on behalf of others,” he said.