Police say they've arrested a Canadian man after an Australian couple was duped with a free trip to Canada and unknowingly smuggled 7 kg of meth in their luggage.
Australian Federal Police said the Perth seniors claimed they had just returned from a free week-long vacation to Canada with luggage they'd won. But the pair had concerns about the increased weight of their bags and alerted customs officials at Perth airport on Oct. 13.
An X-ray scan found each suitcase had about 3.5 kg of meth -- worth about $7 million -- hidden in the lining.
Police said the 72-year-old man and 64-year-old woman were "victims of an elaborate scam and were unwitting participants in the drug importation."
Officers arrested a 38-year-old Canadian man who had been waiting for the couple at Perth airport the same day.
Police said officers raided a hotel in Perth where they found documents related to the scam, two suitcases similar to the ones seized at the airport and about $15,000 cash.
The suspect is charged with the import of a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
A police spokeswoman refused to identify the man or where he is from due to the ongoing investigation. She also declined to say where the pair travelled in Canada or when the drugs were put into the suitcases.
One of the victims, identified as Sue, said she entered a contest online for a holiday and was contacted, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
"I could have ended up in jail for 25 years, ruined my life.
"So you've gotta be real careful, real wary and check everything out."
Police said the scam targeted older Australians via a bogus Canadian-based company, AusCan Tours.
A website for AusCan Tours has been removed.
"The organizers of this scam went to great lengths to provide a facade of legitimacy. Thankfully the travellers contacted customs and didn't dismiss their concerns, allowing us to make the arrest," Australian Federal Police Perth airport commander David Bachi said in a statement Friday.
The couple doesn't face charges.
Police in Australia are working with investigators in Canada and fear there could be more victims.
"We have nothing to suggest that this has occurred before in Australia. It's something new for us. But we are asking for people who believe they may have been a victim to get into contact with us," a police spokeswoman said.