Man arrested after suspicious packages were found at foreign consulates and embassies

A Victoria Police forensic officer carries items to be loaded into a trailer outside the Italian consulate in Melbourne

A Victoria Police forensic officer carries items to be loaded into a trailer outside the Italian consulate in Melbourne

A 48-year-old from northern Victoria has been arrested and charged over dozens of suspicious packages that were delivered to embassies and consulates throughout Australia.

Detectives allege the man sent 38 parcels to consulates and embassies in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, with a substance suspected to have been sourced from his Shepparton home. The Victoria state police said on January 9 that they believe the incidents are targeted, and that the general public is not at great risk.

A Victoria Police forensic officer carries items to be loaded into a trailer outside the Italian consulate in Melbourne.

The 48-year-old man was arrested at his home in Shepparton, in the Australian state of Victoria, on Wednesday night, and charged with sending unsafe articles to be carried by a postal service, police said.

The US consulate was placed in lockdown at 1.30pm on Wednesday after staff scanned a suspicious package and discovered it contained white powder.

The Australian Federal Police said that 29 packages were being examined, and that the incidents were under investigation.

The packages were not believed to be unsafe, but police, fire crews and forensic teams were urged to use breathing apparatus as they documented and double- or triple-bagged the materials for further testing.

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"It didn't have a return address, written on the top was "samples" and because it didn't have a return address and without it having a note inside, we thought it was suspicious and because of that, we isolated it from the start".

The consulate was temporarily evacuated, but NSW Police confirmed on Tuesday the substance was not risky.

An official at Pakistan's consulate told ABC she opened a suspicious envelope Wednesday morning "which appeared to contain asbestos".

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the British High Commission it was "liaising closely with the Australian Federal Police and the local authorities regarding the situation".

DFAT told AAP it had sent an email to all Canberra diplomatic missions on Tuesday.

It subsequently sent similar advice to missions elsewhere.

The arrest came after around 10 diplomatic missions, mostly in Melbourne, on Wednesday reported the delivery of suspicious packages, some of them labelled "asbestos".

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