CANBERRA: An Australian Border Force officer has been arrested over an alleged international tobacco ring operating between Sydney and Dubai. The serving officer, Craig Eakin, was arrested alongside a female former Customs and Border Protection Service officer. Eakin, 42, from Brighton-Le-Sands, has been charged with smuggling, bribery, abuse of public office, assisting a criminal group, unauthorised access and dealing in the proceeds of crime. Johayna Merhi, 41, from Hurtsville, has been charged with conspiracy to bribe, smuggling, assisting a criminal group and dealing in proceeds of crime. The Daily Telegraph reported it will be alleged Ms Merhi, who used to work at Customs, has a connection to Koder Jomaa, who this week was arrested in Dubai and is facing extradition. Jomaa quit Sydney for Dubai three years ago after the collapse of his marriage and swiftly set up a healthy eaterie and delivery service Fit Food Kitchen in the exclusive Jumeirah Lake Towers. The arrests follows dawn raids on Tuesday when AFP officers swooped on homes and businesses across Sydney.
“Unfortunately, during this operation, we have uncovered some allegations of corrupt activity, which this syndicate exploited to try and get their drugs into the country,” Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said on Thursday. “We will be alleging that these persons utilised their knowledge and expertise to assist the Jomaa organised crime family bring border-controlled drugs into Australia.” The pair are two of a group of eight people arrested in Sydney and one in Dubai over their involvement in an alleged conspiracy to illegally import drugs and tobacco into Australia. Ms Merhi, whose LinkedIn profile describes her as an investigator for Australian Custom Services, appeared briefly in the dock yesterday for a short appearance where she didn’t apply for bail, reported The Telegraph. She had a large number of supporters in court, with one elderly woman wiping away tears as she was brought into the courtroom by guards. On Tuesday, 17 people were arrested across three countries, including two brothers of Kings Cross night-life figure John Ibrahim, preventing about two tonnes of illicit drugs reaching Australia. Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said the allegations against the serving ABF officer were serious and defended the reputation of the agency. “I want to apologise to all of the Australian Border Force officers for the alleged conduct of this officer,” he told reporters in Canberra. “This besmirches 5,500 officers who do a great job. “It just takes one bad apple.” Mr Dutton then pointed to endemic corruption in Australia’s ports “since settlement”, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. “Our job is to weed it out,” he added.