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Man Arrested After Suspicious Packages Sent To Consulates Throughout Australia

Hazmat and fire crews work outside the Indian and French Consulate in Melbourne. At least seven international consulates were evacuated in Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday after reports that multiple suspicious packages had been sent to them.
Kaitlyn Offer

Australian police arrested a Shepparton man accused of mailing 38 packages containing a dangerous substance to diplomatic missions throughout southeast Australia.

Savas Avan was charged with sending dangerous articles through the postal service, Australian law enforcement officials saidin a statement. The offense carries a maximum 10-year jail term.

The 49-year-old man was arrested at his home on Wednesday night. The substance in the packages is "suspected to have been sourced from his Shepparton home" in Northern Victoria, police said. Avan appeared at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday, The Associated Press reported. A Commonwealth prosecutor told the court the deliveries contained asbestos. Police said they had recovered most of the packages.

A neighbor of the man, identified only as Gordo, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the suspect kept to himself. "I knew something was weird with this guy because he's never out, never watered his lawns, nothing like that, that's why I kept away," Gordo said.

Packages were sent to diplomatic missions of the United States, Britain, India, South Korea, Pakistan, Israel, Switzerland, Greece and Argentina, the AP reported. Emergency workers were also seen at the consulates of Italy, Spain, France and New Zealand, the BBC reported, citing Australian media.

An official at Pakistan's consulate told ABC she opened a suspicious envelope Wednesday morning, "which appeared to contain asbestos." Authorities told her to wash her hands, she said.

The affected consulates were evacuated, The Associated Press reports. The government Vic Emergency website noted several "hazardous material" incidents, the AP reported.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").
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