Australia: Man arrested over suspicious parcels sent to embassies

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The 48-year-old suspect was arrested at his home in Shepparton, in the southern state of Victoria, federal and state police said in a joint statement on Thursday.

Numerous diplomatic missions in the Australian cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra received suspicious packages this week, with several consulates and embassies temporarily evacuated or put on lock-down on Wednesday.

Some consulate workers reported seeing packages labeled "asbestos." Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral commonly used in building materials in Australia and elsewhere until the mid-1980s, but it was banned after it was found that exposure to its fibers could cause deadly illnesses.

Charge carries lengthy jail term

The arrested man is expected to appear in a Melbourne court on Thursday, charged with sending dangerous articles through the post. The maximum penalty for the crime is 10 years in jail.

Police said it would be alleged in court that the suspect sent 38 parcels to the consulates and embassies of foreign countries including Germany, the UK and the US. So far, 29 of those have been recovered and are being forensically tested to confirm what's inside. Police suspect the substance in the packages was sourced from the man's home.

"There is no ongoing threat to the general public," the police statement said, adding that investigators had identified the intended recipients of the remaining packages and were in the process of recovering them.

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se/rc (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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