Customs recruits to undergo more detailed background checks

NEW recruits for the Customs Service will undergo more detailed background checks as part of a renewed focus to stamp out corruption on Australia's border.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Customs chief Michael Pezzullo announced Taskforce Ferris today to address corruption in Customs.

The initiative comes after a series of investigations in the service resulted in eight arrests of Customs officers to date, involving charges "laid or pending".

Mr Pezzullo said five of those arrested were investigated under Operation Heritage, while the other three were unrelated to that operation.

While he could not comment on the details or how widespread corruption was, he said there were "greater numbers" of other officers who had left Customs, or had their employment terminated.

Mr Pezzullo said there were also a number of officers under lawful surveillance, officers which he said might have thought they could "lay low" and avoid investigation.

He said the new taskforce was a "clear message that we're on to you", saying the new taskforce would work to ensure any officers with criminal corrections were eradicated from Customs.

But he said the new taskforce would specifically focus on using "big data" to analyse the spending and financial habits of new recruits, and existing staff.

Mr Pezzullo said investigations would centre on identifying officers who were "living in a manner not consistent with any income that we can discern".

He said the six member taskforce could be expanded if needed, and it would focus on any links of new recruits to organised criminal gangs.

The taskforce, he said, would help ensure a "legacy" of corruption was not carried back into Customs after a series of reforms designed to keep questionable staff off the border.