Qantas infiltrated by 'up to 150 people linked to crime gangs'

·3-min read

Iconic Australian airline Qantas has allegedly been infiltrated by over 100 people linked to organised crime, which could pose a "very high" threat for Australia.

A classified Australian intelligence operation given the code name Project Brunello found up to 150 Qantas staff were linked to criminal activity, Nine newspapers and 60 Minutes reported.

The allegations include claims that a Comanchero bikie gang affiliate is working as a Qantas manager at Sydney Airport, recruiting criminals to help import narcotics.

Due to confidentiality requirements, those briefed on the findings of the Brunello report could not speak publicly.

Over 100 Qantas employees have been linked to crime according to a law enforcement report. Source: AAP
Over 100 Qantas employees have been linked to crime according to a law enforcement report. Source: AAP

However, Nine Newspapers and 60 Minutes reported Brunello found "trusted insiders" linked to organised crime worked at Qantas and could "cause significant harm" to Australia.

The report also highlighted a person linked to the Hells Angels working as a Qantas contractor in the Northern Territory and a freight contractor in Perth who used his "trusted insider status" to make significant drug deliveries.

Five staff at Qantas had links to "national security" criminality involving Islamic extremism, Nine reported, though law enforcement agencies said there weren't any immediate risks.

Following the report by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes, Qantas released a statement saying the claims were "disturbing" and that the company follows all government vetting procedures.

Qantas Group Chief Security Officer Luke Bramah said the airline had not been advised of any current investigations regarding employees linked to organised crime.

Grounded Qantas aircraft are seen parked at Brisbane Airport in Brisbane, Friday, April 17, 2020. The Australian government has forced airline carriers to cut both their domestic and international flights in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING
In a statement, Qantas Group Chief Security Officer Luke Bramah said the claims were "disturbing". Source: AAP

"If concerns are raised regarding any of our employees, we will actively support their investigation and take appropriate action," Mr Bramah said.

“To be clear, none of Australia’s law enforcement agencies have told us of the existence of a report that suggests there are potentially 150 Qantas employees who have connections to organised crime. Nor have they raised concerns with us about our vetting or background checking processes."

He added the airline is the only commercial airline which had a Trusted Trader accreditation with Australian Border Force.

The accreditation means every employee connected to air freight must pass a test and the airline has not been been notified by Border Force of any employee who failed the test.

“While Australia does have world-leading aviation security, of course more can be done to help reduce the risk of people working in the industry trying to take advantage of their position to commit crimes such as drug smuggling," Mr Bramah said.

“There are multiple checks and balances in place already that we know work, but we have been strong supporters of introducing intelligence checks. We’re pleased that the Federal Government is working to get this through Parliament.

“In addition to the criminal checks that happen every two years, we’d like to see real-time background checks which means airlines and airports know immediately if an employee has been convicted of an offence, because it’s another safeguard."

Following the reports, Labor highlighted that it had been 15 years since a review of airport security.

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