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Cabin crew ‘smuggled $21m worth of drugs into Australia’

January 17, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email


Police have arrested eight people in Melbourne as part of a joint operation targeting an organised crime syndicate police believe is responsible for importing about AUD 21 million worth of illicit drugs into Australia on the bodies of airline cabin crew – and officers have named the Asian airline they allege was used.

Operation Sunrise began in August 2018, focusing on the importation and subsequent trafficking of high-grade heroin to Melbourne.

Investigators will allege the syndicate was bringing the drugs into the country from Malaysia by using the cabin crew of an international airline.

ABC News reported yesterday the joint investigative team has alleged that the syndicate used cabin crews at Malindo Air, an airline based in Malaysia, to bring the drugs in via Melbourne and Sydney, carried on the bodies of cabin crew.

ABC News said at least two of those arrested were cabin crew with Malindo Air. It said it had contacted Malindo Air for comment. The broadcaster did not suggest the airline knew anything about the alleged conduct of its crew.

Singapore’s Straits Times said Malindo acknowledged that one cabin crew member had been arrested but did not know of any second arrest. The paper carried the following statement from Malindo Air on the matter:

“Malindo Air stands ready to co-operate with all the relevant authorities be it in Australia or in Malaysia in this regard. The said cabin crew has also been suspended with immediate effect pending.”

The airline added: “Given all that we know to date and based on the findings of our internal investigations, we are confident that this arrest appears to be an isolated incident arising out of a crew’s misconduct.”

The alleged offenders are said in Australia to be linked to the trafficking of at least 6kgs of high-grade heroin and 8kgs of methamphetamine during the five-month operation.

Since 8 January 2019, seven search warrants were executed by the Joint Organised Crime Taskforce (JOCTF), comprising members from the Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, with assistance from the Victoria Police Drug Taskforce.

The properties targeted were located in the Melbourne suburbs of Richmond (two properties), Southbank, Abbotsford, Sunshine North (two properties) and Melbourne.

Eight people have been arrested as part of this operation and charged by police as follows:

  • A 38-year-old woman was arrested in Tullamarine on 7 January and charged with one count of importing a marketable quantity of border-controlled drugs;
  • A 47-year-old woman was arrested in Abbotsford on 8 January and charged with traffic commercial quantity of controlled drugs and import commercial quantity of border-controlled drug;
  • A 55-year-old man was arrested in Southbank on 8 January and charged with traffic commercial quantity of controlled drugs and import commercial quantity of border-controlled drug;
  • A 42-year-old man was arrested in Melbourne on 8 January and charged with trafficking a marketable quantity of controlled drugs;
  • A 26-year-old man was arrested in Sunshine North on 8 January and charged with traffic a marketable quantity of border-controlled drugs;
  • A 30-year-old man was arrested in Sunshine North on 8 January and charged with traffic of controlled drugs and dealing with proceeds of crime;
  • A 46-year-old woman was arrested on 8 January in Abbotsford and charged with traffic a controlled drug; and
  • A 47-year-old Richmond woman was arrested in Richmond on 14 January and charged with import commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs, traffic marketable quantity of controlled drugs, and traffic-controlled drugs.

All eight have appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court with six remanded to appear again on 15 May 2019.

Part of haul alleged by police. Photo: Australian Federal Police

The 30-year-old man and 46-year-old woman were bailed to appear again at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 15 May 2019.

A number of items were also seized during the operation, including the following:

  • 6kg of heroin or approximately 42,000 hits with a street value of AUD 14.5 million;
  • 8kg of methamphetamine with a street value of AUD 6.4 million;
  • About 0.5kg of cocaine;
  • Drug paraphernalia;
  • Vehicles including a Porsche Macan and Mini Cooper; and
  • Significant quantity of cash.

Crime Command assistant commissioner Tess Walsh said the successful outcome of this operation sends a strong message that police and other law enforcement agencies remain strongly focused on disrupting those criminal groups bringing drugs into the Victorian community.

“This was a well-organised syndicate we know had operated across Australia undetected for many years,” she said.

“To be in a position to make these arrests and dismantle this group is a significant win for both police and the Victorian community.

“The amount of heroin alone involved in this investigation amounts to almost 50,000 hits in real terms.

“We know the harm that drugs bring – not just the physical and health impacts on users, but the negative flow on effects to the broader community such as property crime, assaults and drug driving.

“This operation has been about ensuring that those within this group are held accountable for their criminal actions and show that police will actively work to disrupt the activities of those willing to bring drugs into Victoria.

“Our work certainly doesn’t finish with these arrests and the enforcement of drug offences remains a key priority for not only Victoria Police, but all law enforcement agencies across Australia.”

Written by Peter Needham



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