Customs screening failed to detect scores of handguns smuggled into Australia via the mail, despite some of the packages going through its X-ray machines.
The guns, which were destined for the black market and have been linked with a number of shootings in Sydney and elsewhere, arrived bit by bit in numerous packages, many of which were scanned by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
But Customs had failed to detect them, a Senate Estimates Committee heard yesterday.
Customs boss Michael Carmody fronted the committee, telling it that the real issue was intelligence gathering because picking up illegal imports with the X-ray machines was very difficult.
He said parts stripped from guns could go unnoticed if they were included with many other pieces of metal.
In the case the Glock pistols, very few parts are metal and the barrel is the only easily recognised piece, which would have made it harder for Customs to detect them.
The main problem, however, seemed to be the large number of packages being scanned by Customs, which may dilute officers’ ability to properly monitor the process.
Police intelligence pointing to particular shipments or packages would give Customs a better chance to identify illegal imports, according to Mr Carmody.
Customs now has an officer working with the NSW police.