The Perth couple who were unwittingly conned into become multi-million dollar drug mules after winning a dream trip to Canada feared they could have spent the rest of their lives in prison. The elaborate con duped the couple by taking them to Canada as "winners" of an all-expenses paid trip, which included accommodation and new luggage.
The couple had won two return tickets to Canada with seven night's accommodation and free luggage from AUSCAN Tours and raised concerns about their baggage to Perth Airport personnel after landing on Sunday October 13. Australian Customs discovered $7 million worth of methamphetamine in rock form in the luggage, with 3.5 kilograms of the drug found hidden inside each case.
The 64-year-old woman, who only wants to be known as Sue, said they were looking online for a holiday, and after entering an online competition she was contacted.
"Be very careful if you win anything," Sue said.
"I could have ended up in jail for 25 years, and they could have ruined my life.
"So be very wary, be very careful and check everything out."
Shortly after the discovery a 38-year-old Canadian man was arrested and charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.
Officers also searched a hotel room in Scarborough where they allegedly seized scam-associated documents, electronic equipment, two suitcases - that were similar to the ones seized at Perth airport - and approximately $15,000 in cash.
An AFP statement issued on Friday warned the public to be aware of overseas holiday competitions that included new luggage and said the travellers were victims of an 'elaborate scam' and became unwitting participants in drug importation.
The maximum penalty for importing drugs is life imprisonment.
The AFP said further investigations have revealed a complex and highly-organised scam where older Australians are targeted by a bogus Canadian-based tour company identifying itself as 'AUSCAN Tours'.
AFP Perth Airport Police Commander David Bachi said scam organisers went to great lengths to provide a façade of legitimacy.
"Thankfully the travellers contacted Customs and didn't dismiss their concerns, allowing us to make the arrest," Mr Bachi said.
"We will continue working with local and international law enforcement partners, targeting all elements of this drug syndicate."
ACBPS Director of Airport Operations Perth Jan Hill warned travellers about carrying luggage on behalf of someone else.
"If you've been asked to carry something on behalf of another person, make the right choice and alert local authorities," Ms Hill said.
"Do not allow another person to pack your bag and do not carry luggage on behalf of another person."
The AFP advises anyone who has received a similar offer of travel or may have been a victim of this type of fraud, or have any information about this particular case, to contact the AFP
October 25, 2013