Australian authorities arrested a Victorian man on Wednesday, January 9, after 38 packages allegedly containing asbestos had been sent to foreign consulates in the Australian cities of Melbourne, Canberra, and Sydney.
Among the recipients of the suspicious packages were the foreign consulates of the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, India, South Korea, Pakistan, Israel, Switzerland, and Greece. After receipt of the packages, all staff from each of the consulates was evacuated. It has been reported that no one has been yet been harmed from the incident, and that all staff are safe and accounted for.
The slew of packages sent to foreign consulates on Wednesday comes only 2 days after the Argentinian consulate in Sydney received 3 bags containing asbestos and fiberglass.
The 48-year-old suspect, Savan Avan, was arrested at this home in Shepparton, Victoria State. He has been charged with sending dangerous articles to be carried by the Australia Post. Following arraignment on Thursday, Avan faces a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison if the allegations are verified.
According to Australian federal prosecutor Matthew Simpson, the packages allegedly sent by Avan contained asbestos – some of which were clearly labeled as such – a known toxic substance.
Asbestos has been declared a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO), known to cause a specific kind of cancer called mesothelioma and other health problems, including asbestosis and lung cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized branch of the WHO, contends that there is “no safe level” of exposure to asbestos.
Undeniably poisonous, asbestos has been banned outright by over 55 countries worldwide, including Australia, which banned the substance back in 2003. Though asbestos has been banned by most of Europe, Brazil, Canada, and Australia, it remains legal in the United States.
While it is clear that the 38 packages contained asbestos, it is not yet known what the alleged sender’s motive was. Avan was not required to enter a plea and did not apply for bail. He is due to appear in court again on March 4, 2019.