Australian charged with sending dangerous parcels to diplomatic missions

SYDNEY (AFP) – An Australian man was charged yesterday with sending dozens of packages believed to contain asbestos to embassies and consulates around the country.

Savas Avan appeared in a Melbourne court after being arrested at his home in rural Victoria state on Wednesday, the same day several consulates in Melbourne received the suspicious packages, authorities said.

Local media reported that Avan, 49, attended court wearing a t-shirt featuring a character from the animated film Minions, with the slogan “more than meets the eye”.

Police alleged he sent 38 parcels containing a dangerous substance to consulates and embassies in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney.

Local media quoted court documents saying the substance was asbestos, a cancer-causing material once widely used in construction, but a police spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny the reports.

A firefighter is seen carrying a hazardous material bag into the Korean consulate in Melbourne on Wednesday. – AP

Police did not put forward a motive for Avan’s alleged actions.

He was charged with sending dangerous materials through the post. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, police said.

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

On Wednesday, emergency services raced to a string of diplomatic facilities in Melbourne that had received the suspect packages.

There was no obvious pattern to countries targetted, with consulates of the United States, China, Italy, India, Japan and New Zealand suffering scares.

The first suspect packages were found at three consulates and embassies in Sydney and Canberra earlier in the week, leading the Department of Foreign Affairs to send notes to all diplomatic missions on Tuesday “alerting them to the possibility of suspicious packages being delivered by mail”.