SYDNEY - Australian authorities have charged a 91-year-old Sydney man with importing cocaine disguised as soap, as they warned travellers Tuesday against becoming unwitting drug couriers.
Federal police said the suspect was charged in July over 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) of cocaine allegedly brought into Sydney in his luggage from India.
"A search of the man's luggage discovered 27 packages of soap," police and the Australian Border Force said in a statement.
"Presumptive testing of the soap showed positive readings for cocaine." The elderly man appeared in a Sydney local court on Tuesday, telling reporters outside that he had been taken advantage of, Australian Associated Press reported.
However, acting assistant commissioner Wayne Buchhorn warned that travellers could be prosecuted even if they unknowingly brought drugs into the country.
"Claiming ignorance of drugs hidden inside your luggage does not automatically mean you will not face criminal charges," he said.
"People can expect they will be charged if they knowingly bring drugs into Australia, or are reckless or wilfully blind to the fact that there could be narcotics concealed inside their luggage or items they are carrying." Tim Fitzgerald, New South Wales state regional commander for the Australian Border Force, said travellers had to be responsible for their own baggage.
"Luggage is a personal responsibility. If you've been asked to carry something on behalf of another person, be sure you know exactly what is inside," he said.
The 91-year-old man has been charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.