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Australian police charge man over hazardous parcels sent to 38 diplomatic offices

Deanna Wagner | 10 January, 2019, 17:28

The packages contained asbestos, once a popular building material that can cause cancer and scarring of the lungs.

Australian police claimed that the man was arrested at his home in rural Victoria state late Wednesday, hours after several consulates - including Pakistani mission - in Melbourne received the suspicious packages.

The AFP said assistance from Australia Post had been "crucial to the outcome of the investigation".

He was charged with sending risky articles to be carried by postal service and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison if he is found guilty. The accused faced the Melbourne Magistrates' Court this afternoon.

Detectives allege the man sent 38 parcels to consulates and embassies in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, with a substance suspected to have been sourced from his Shepparton home.

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

His lawyer Sonia Sawant did not apply for bail during the short hearing and he was remanded in custody to face court again on March 4. The offense carries a maximum 10-year jail term.

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Only 29 of the 38 packages have been discovered so far, but federal police say they have put processes in place to recover the outstanding parcels safely.

On Wednesday suspicious packages were received at embassies in Canberra as well as the US, Pakistani, Swiss, Indian, South Korean, New Zealand, Greek, French, Italian, Spanish and Turkish consulates in Melbourne.

Emergency services were called to French, Greek, Indian, Italian, New Zealand, Pakistani, South Korean, Spanish, Swiss and US consulates in Melbourne on January 9.

There was no ongoing threat to the public, authorities said.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said it had sent an email to all diplomatic missions in Canberra this week, after three offices in the capital and Sydney received suspicious packages. They gave no additional details of how the asbestos was packaged or what the motive might have been.

"Similar advice was subsequently provided to consulates around Australia".