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Bad customs on the waterfront -

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EMILY BOURKE: A day after the Federal Government announced a review of the nation's customs agency there are more revelations about the extent of corruption.

A joint investigation by the ABC's 7.30 program and Fairfax media reveals that a dozen customs staff are suspected of corrupt activity, which has allowed drugs and guns to enter Australia through Port Botany in Sydney.

The union representing customs officers says their role is poorly defined and ripe for exploitation.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: Yesterday's revelation that a group of customs officers allegedly helped smuggle drugs through Sydney Airport prompted the Federal Government to announce a review of customs.

Now it can be revealed that a joint police taskforce has identified up to 12 suspected corrupt customs officials working on maritime border security in New South Wales.

It's alleged that customs officers falsified paperwork to allow illegal handguns to pass through Port Botany. A police report identified the problem earlier this year.

EXTRACT FROM REPORT (voiceover): Polaris investigations have identified employees of law enforcement and regulatory bodies providing assistance to criminal groups. The employees have included members of customs and employees of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.

SIMON LAUDER: In 2004, Australian Federal Police officer Ross Fusca tried to take on corruption on the docks.

ROSS FUSCA: There are still quite a number of people that work for stevedoring companies and other agencies that can and will assist in the removal of shipping containers.

SIMON LAUDER: The president of the Customs Officers Association of Australia, Peter Bennett, doesn't deny that there are many opportunities to corrupt customs officers.

PETER BENNETT: It is an extremely open opportunity for criminals to actually break a Customs officer for either through family ties and that's a big problem, the amount of psychological pressure that can be put on a family or through relationships so that they can bend them and get them to do something.

SIMON LAUDER: Professor of criminology at Flinders University, Andrew Goldsmith, says he's not surprised to hear of the corruption claims.

ANDREW GOLDSMITH: These are extremely important passage, points of passage for goods coming into the country so it's in the interests of people to go out of their way to cultivate these people, to bribe them, to threaten them if necessary if they are going to see more of those illicit goods come into the country. So they're a particularly vulnerable point, I suppose in the logistical change for illicit importations.

SIMON LAUDER: Don't we have adequate safeguards in the maritime security hurdles that need to be passed before someone is given access to these areas?

ANDREW GOLDSMITH: Well, I think the risks associated with this area have become more apparent in recent years and I think this recent incident is underlying it even more so. Look the vulnerabilities have always been there. I think what we haven't seen in Australia is evidence of how susceptible they can be.

In other countries around the world, organised crime organisations cultivate young individuals, they'll place them into agencies such as the police and Customs with a long term view to exploiting their services years down the line. I don't know if we have seen any of evidence of that here in Australia but that possibility exists and I think this is a wake-up call.

Obviously not enough has been done if this sort of thing is going on.

SIMON LAUDER: Today's revelations have prompted calls for a pardon for a former customs officer whose reporting highlighted security flaws at Sydney Airport a decade ago.

Allan Kessing was convicted for leaking the reports, an allegation he denies.

Independent Senator Xenophon says the two reports should now be released.

NICK XENOPHON: How many Australians have overdosed on narcotics as a result of corrupt customs officials allowing those drugs to be brought into the country? How many Australians have been injured or killed as a result of weapons being brought into the country as a result of the actions of corrupt Customs officials?

So in light of this events, Mr Kessing's application for a pardon must be reconsidered. Mr Kessing and the reports must be released. There is nothing in those reports that is not, that is, that would breach security or national security. Mr Clare, if he's fair dinkum about this, ought to release those reports as a matter of urgency to give a historical context to what has occurred.

SIMON LAUDER: A spokesman for customs told The World Today there's nothing to add to yesterday's announcement. The Minister for Home Affairs, Jason Clare, did not answer The World Today's request for comment.

EMILY BOURKE: Simon Lauder.