Australia’s Qantas Airlines was ‘disturbed’ by reports that claimed some of its employees were involved with organised criminal gangs.
The Nine newspapers and 60 Minutes reported the allegations based on a classified intelligence operation.
It said agencies believe organised crime groups had infiltrated Qantas to facilitate illegal activities.
The Nine newspapers said the classified intelligence operation found up to 150 Qantas staff had been linked to criminality. It said agencies believe they included motorcycle gangs that were involved in drug importation and other activities.
The report said the suspected wrongdoing was “serious and represents a very high threat to the Australian border”.
The Nine newspapers said official sources briefed on the findings were unable to speak publicly “due to confidentiality requirements”.
The allegations include that one motorcycle gang affiliate is working at Qantas’ Sydney airport operations and may have recruited criminals to the airline to help import narcotics.
In a statement, Qantas said it found the claims “disturbing”.
“To be clear, none of Australia’s law enforcement agencies have told us of the existence of a report that suggests there are potentially 150 Qantas employees who have connections to organised crime. Nor have they raised concerns with us about our vetting or background checking processes,” Qantas Group Chief Security Officer Luke Bramah said in a statement.
“If concerns are raised regarding any of our employees, we will actively support their investigation and take appropriate action,” Mr Bramah said.
The airline said it had written to multiple agencies – including the Australian Federal Police and the country’s Criminal Intelligence Commission – seeking details of the report.
It also said Qantas is the only commercial airline that holds a “Trusted Trader accreditation” with Australian Border Force, which means all employees involved in international air freight must pass a fit and proper test.
“We’ve not been advised by Border Force of any of our employees failing this test,” Mr Bramah said.
The allegations surface at a time when the airline is suffering big losses amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The airline is expected to report an annual loss of $1.5 billion. Like many others, the airline has cut thousands of jobs in a bid to navigate the crisis that has devastated travel.