Australia

Victorian man faces court over 'suspicious packages' found at Melbourne, Canberra consulates

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A 49-year-old Shepparton man has faced court accused of sending parcels believed to contain asbestos to embassies.

A Victorian man has faced court accused of sending 38 suspicious packages to embassies and consulates in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, forcing closures and evacuations.

Savas Avan, 49, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday charged with sending dangerous items by post. 

He was arrested at his Shepparton home last night. 

When asked by magistrate Costas Kilias what the dangerous article was, commonwealth prosecutor Matthew Simpson replied "asbestos". 

Police allege he sent 38 parcels with a substance from his home in Shepparton, Victoria, but said the exact composition of the substance is still being determined. 

Emergency service personal exiting the building where the Korean consulate is located in Melbourne.
Emergency service personal exiting the building where the Korean consulate is located in Melbourne.
AAP

The suspicious packages sparked a major emergency response and evacuation of seven foreign consulates across Melbourne, with embassies in Canberra also hit.

Diplomatic offices in Melbourne for countries including Germany, Italy, India, Spain and Korea were among those attended by police, fire crews and ambulance officers on Wednesday afternoon.

"Police have so far recovered 29 of these packages, with forensic testing to be undertaken on them to determine the exact composition of the material in them," a statement from Australian Federal Police said. 

"Police have identified all intended recipients and have put processes in place to recover the outstanding packages. There is no ongoing threat to the general public."

AFP confirmed packages were also sent to embassies in Canberra, but it's unknown which countries were targeted. 

The Indian and US consulates on St Kilda Road, along with the British, Swiss, German Korean, Greek, Italian, Pakistani and Egyptian missions were targeted.

"Police and emergency services have responded to suspicious packages to embassies and consulates in ACT & VIC today," the Australian Federal Police said in a statement. 

"The packages are being examined by attending emergency services. The circumstances are being investigated."

Police outside the Italian consulate in Melbourne.
Police outside the Italian consulate in Melbourne.
Carlo Oreglia-SBS Italian

Police tape at the locked down Italian consulate.
Police tape at the locked down Italian consulate.
Carlo Oreglia-SBS Italian

There are no reports of anyone being injured and Victorian police told reporters the general public was not believed to be at risk.

Two fire trucks, a hazardous materials vehicle and police cars were called to the Consulate-General of India on St Kilda Road, where staff sat outside the building, telling reporters they had been told not to comment to reporters.

The building was deemed "safe" and employees were able to reenter the building by 3pm.

Hazmat and fire crews are seen outside the Indian and French Consulates on St Kilda Road in Melbourne.
Hazmat and fire crews are seen outside the Indian and French Consulates on St Kilda Road in Melbourne.
AAP

The incident comes just days after emergency services were called to the Argentinian consulate in Sydney's CBD after reports that a suspicious substance was found in a parcel.

The powder, contained in clear plastic bags within an envelope, was subsequently deemed not dangerous.

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