Australian Federal Police have arrested an employee of an Emirates-owned air services company and charged him with drug trafficking and money laundering offences as a result of the Operation Ironside investigation.
The man, Frank Meredith, is a Sydney airport-based employee of air services company Dubai National Air Travel Agency (DNATA), which is owned by Emirates and his arrest came after a two-year AFP operation.
The inquiry previously led to the charging of two Sydney men over a 38-kilogram methamphetamine importation on an Air Canada flight in March 2019. But it was evidence uncovered by the AFP’s infiltration of the An0m encrypted phone platform as part of an operation codenamed Ironside that allowed investigators to uncover the alleged infiltration of DNATA’s Sydney Airport department.
A DNATA spokesperson confirmed in a statement that one of its employees in Australia was in police custody but declined to comment on “ongoing legal proceedings and investigations by the authorities”.
“DNATA is committed to ethical business practices and operates in compliance with all laws, regulations and industry standards ... We are co-operating fully with the authorities in their investigation,” the statement said.
Operation Ironside was unveiled by the AFP on Tuesday and led to hundreds of arrests of organised crime figures across the world throughout the week.
In a statement, the AFP said one of the crime syndicates identified by Ironside “consisted of people with trusted insider access at the airport, who utilised encrypted devices to communicate”.
The arrests come just days after The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that law enforcement agencies believe Qantas has been infiltrated by organised crime groups, including at Sydney airport.
Qantas responded to the revelations by backing the Coalition’s proposed changes to the vetting of airport workers, which would allow the federal agencies to use criminal intelligence to deny suspected crime figures access to sensitive border and port posts.
Multiple classified reports completed over the past decade have highlighted vulnerabilities in aviation security across Australia.
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