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Transporting illicit goods

Australia’s airports and maritime ports are not only important conduits for trade, but also for organised crime groups wanting to transport and receive goods.

Crime in the aviation sector

Airports are a prime gateway for the entry of illicit goods into Australia, and organised crime groups use a combination of methods to exploit this sector. This includes importing illicit goods in small but frequent amounts—the scatter method—and using air cargo to import/export larger quantities of illicit drugs and other goods.

Most criminal activity in the aviation sector involves:

  • importing/exporting illicit drugs
  • domestic drug trafficking
  • avoiding duty on goods
  • organised theft
  • money laundering
  • smuggling undeclared cash, people, illicit flora and fauna, counterfeit goods and tobacco.

Other crimes may include exporting high value, low volume goods, for example prohibited commodities such as diamonds, bullion and jewellery.

There is close to 2000 operational airports and landing strips in Australia, most of which are privately owned and therefore less regulated.

Criminal groups exploit entry points depending on levels of security, screening and vetting. They may conceal illicit goods in regular personal or commercial movement.

Organised criminals either control activity from outside the sector, or use group members to infiltrate the sector where they can exploit vulnerabilities, circumvent security, corrupt officials and use their knowledge of the aviation environment. Criminal groups may also have security cleared members working in air cargo and freight firms.

Crime in the maritime sector

Australia’s maritime ports are the largest freight hubs in the country and crucial connecting points for both cargo and passengers. Ports and the associated supply chain are therefore prime gateways for the entry of illicit commodities.

Marine ports are large and this, combined with a sizeable workforce, creates difficulties for effective regulation and security. Individual criminals and criminal groups exploit these vulnerabilities to facilitate or commit a wide range of crimes.

Most organised crime in the maritime sector involves:

  • importing illicit commodities
  • avoiding paying duty on goods
  • organised theft.

In some instances, trusted insiders and internal facilitators may operate in the ports environment, helping organised crime groups to facilitate their criminal activity, through exploiting port vulnerabilities.

Organised criminal groups exploit maritime ports for a range of criminal activities including:

  • importing illicit drugs 
  • distributing illicit drugs in the domestic market
  • moving firearms, firearm parts and weapons
  • smuggling fauna and flora
  • organising large scale theft
  • importing mis-described or counterfeit goods
  • evading tax or duty
  • exploiting the private security industry.
Last updated
30 June 2016