Ex-border official admits helping drug, tobacco syndicate
A FORMER Australian Border Force official who worked at Sydney airport has admitted accepting a bribe and importing tobacco with intent to avoid paying tax.
Craig Richard Eakin, a 43-year-old long-time Customs employee, entered guilty pleas at Sydney's Central Local Court on Wednesday after being charged last August over his alleged involvement in an international tobacco ring operating between Sydney and Dubai.
The Brighton-Le-Sands man pleaded guilty to importing tobacco products with intent to defraud revenue and being a commonwealth public official receiving a bribe.
Other charges were withdrawn including dealing with the proceeds of crime and commit an offence at the direction of a criminal organisation.
His bail was continued and his case was adjourned to the Downing Centre District Court for mention on August 31.
Eakin was suspended without pay following his August arrest.
In December last year The Daily Telegraph revealed the ABF supervisor revealed the inner workings of customs to help the syndicate smuggle millions of dollars' worth of drugs and tobacco into the country undetected.
In a major security breach, police alleged Eakin was bribed by the Jomaa family to downgrade customs alerts so illegal cargo would not be X-rayed by Border Force officials.
He allegedly also passed on highly sensitive intelligence about suspicious container and plane cargo, which groups law enforcement were targeting and even took screenshots of Border Force computer screens that he then handed over at a Brighton Le Sands cafe.
The three Jomaa brothers - Koder, Ali and Abbas - Eakin and former Border Force employee turned NSW police officer Johayna Mehri were arrested during sweeping organised raids across Sydney and Dubai as part of Operation Astatine in August.
Koder Jomaa was allegedly the kingpin of the syndicate and key to organising a shipment of 200kg of MDMA from Europe to Australia.
At the same time a second alleged crime syndicate was smashed as part of operation Veyda - netting members of infamous the Ibrahim family.
The Jomaa brothers have been on the police radar for a decade and it is alleged they imported three illegal shipments of tobacco and were planning to import 200kg of the drug MDMA, which never made it to our shores.
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According to a police statement of facts previously tendered in court, Eakin received $100,000 in cash from Mehri to look up sensitive intelligence when he was the supervisor of Customs House's Cargo Targeting and Assessment section.
Ali Jomaa allegedly used an encrypted BlackBerry phone using the handle "Bowzer" to communicate with a police witness about specific advice Eakin had given him on how to avoid detection and "about legitimate Australian company imports".
"I think we gotta bring in a legitimate shipment first before we load it with tobacco. We can import paper rolls? Which would be really cheap," police allege Ali texted the witness on March 14.
On March 21 police will allege Eakin accessed a highly sensitive computer profile used by officials to detect high risk cargo imports.
A few days later Ali Jomaa allegedly met the police witness at Mezes Espresso Cafe in Brighton Le Sands, arriving with a printed document that included screen shots of the sensitive computer profile.
In December lawyer Abbas Soukie said the drug allegations against Ali Jomaa were weak and the charges would be defended.
Police also allege Eakin accessed Border Force systems to allow a container of 455,000 packets of smuggled cigarettes to pass through customs at Port Botany undetected.
Eakin's home was raided on July 20 last year with police finding $99,000 Mehri had allegedly given him on behalf of the Jomaa brothers. When police searched Mehri's Hurstville home on August 8 they found $50,000 in cash.
On the same day Koder Jomaa was arrested in Dubai and Ali and Abbas Jomaa were arrested in Rockdale.