Australia: Man Arrested Over Suspicious Consulate Packages

Local media quoted court documents saying the substance in the parcels was asbestos a cancer-causing material. — AFP

The court was told the packages contained asbestos.

Australian police have arrested a man who allegedly sent suspicious parcels to consulates and embassies in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.

The Australian Federal Police have confirmed the man was arrested at his home in northern Victoria on Wednesday night and charged with sending unsafe articles to be carried by a postal service.

He was charged with sending risky articles to be carried by a postal service and has been remanded in custody following a Melbourne Magistrates' Court hearing today.

More than a dozen foreign offices received suspicious packages on Wednesday, including the US and British missions in Melbourne.

Police have so far recovered 29 of the packages and identified "all intended recipients".

The Vic Emergencywebsite, the collective body of emergency agencies in Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, noted at least 10 "hazardous material" incidents in the city, though by Wednesday night none of those incidents was listed as ongoing. Officials at the United States and Swiss missions in the city said they had also received packages.

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The Greek consulate general on St Kilda Road and the Pakistan consulate in Albert Park both received suspect packages but did not contact authorities straight away.

An incident was also listed at the South Melbourne building where the Consulate General of Turkey is based.

Greek vice-consul Georgia Botsiou told SBS Greek radio it had received the package on Friday afternoon.

"The note advised missions to handle mail in accordance with their own government's protocols and instructions", Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement.

Avan was ordered held without bail and is due to appear in court again in early March.

DFAT said in a statement that after learning of the suspicious packages sent to three offices in Sydney and Canberra it notified all diplomatic missions on Tuesday and warned officials to be cautious with their mail.

"They were very quick on to it, they provided advice to the relevant consular residences and in practical terms we learnt very quickly, that evening, that the substance was inert", he said.

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