Australia consulate scares: Arrest over '38 suspicious parcels'

image source, AFP/Getty Images
image captionPolice officers remove evidence from the Italian consulate in Melbourne

Australian police have arrested a man who allegedly sent suspicious parcels to consulates and embassies in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.

Emergency crews were called to several consulates on Wednesday after being alerted by staff. Some packages were reported to be labelled asbestos.

The contents of the parcels are still being identified. There were no reports of harm to staff.

The man arrested sent 38 parcels, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) allege.

There was no ongoing threat to the public, authorities said.

The 48-year-old man was charged with sending dangerous articles to be carried by a postal service, an offence which carries a maximum 10-year jail term.

Emergency workers had been seen at consulates belonging to the UK, US, Switzerland, Pakistan, India, Greece, South Korea, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and France, Australian media reported.

1. New Zealand Consulate General; 2. Consulate General of Pakistan; 3. Honorary Consulate General of France; 4. Greek Consulate General; 5. Consulate General of Italy; 6. US Consulate General Melbourne; 7. Consulate of Switzerland

The packages were believed to contain an unidentified substance sourced from the man's home at Shepparton, about 200km (125 miles) north of Melbourne, police said.

"Forensic testing [is] to be undertaken on them to determine the exact composition of the material in them," the AFP said in a statement on Thursday.

Authorities said they had recovered 29 parcels but were confident of finding any remaining items.

The Australian government had issued a warning to foreign missions on Tuesday about suspicious mail items, after an earlier discovery of three packages.

"The note advised missions to handle mail in accordance with their own government's protocols and instructions," Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement.

The man arrested is due to face a court in Melbourne on Thursday.

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