An Australian syndicate recruited Malaysian flight crew members to smuggle drugs into Australia in their underwear, a report said yesterday.
Brisbane Times said the syndicate relied on flight attendants working with cabin crews for Malaysia Airlines and Malindo Air to smuggle heroin into Melbourne and then exchange the parcels for cash at local hotels.
It said the syndicate’s head in Melbourne, Michelle Ngoc Tran, paid A$155,000 for each 1kg “ticket” of heroin, and sold them to buyers for A$195,000. She deducted from her profits payments for couriers and other intermediaries.
Tran, 49, a nail technician, was known as the “Queen of Richmond”, according to a prosecution summary tendered to the County Court this week, the report said.
During her reign, the syndicate imported 6.6kg of heroin with a street value of up to A$8 million between October 2018 and early January last year. It also trafficked 7kg of ice and 500gm of cocaine during that time.
The report said drug mules recruited in Malaysia were told to “walk with confidence”, with parcels of heroin strapped between their legs, in their bras and in their underwear.
They practised for three months with a pillow between their legs before they started to smuggle heroin 1kg at a time, it said.
It said Tran used coded language when speaking with her network of associates. Her supplier in Malaysia was “Mr Hanoi”, she deployed her “soldiers” to exchange cash for drugs and asked flight crew members if they were coming to see “Mandy” (Melbourne) or “Sandy” (Sydney).
According to Brisbane Times, Tran claimed she had been in the drugs business for nearly 30 years, her name was famous and one of her “soldiers” held her phone while she spoke.
It quoted prosecutor Jonathan Manning as writing in the court summary that police and other authorities intercepted four of the eight heroin packages in late 2018, but the other four were not intercepted and the drugs were distributed.
On Jan 6 last year, it said, a Malaysian flight attendant was arrested at Melbourne Airport when border patrol officers found parcels of drugs on her.
The 40-year-old was reported to have told police she needed the money to help her sick mother and daughter. She was paid about A$1,700 for every ticket she smuggled and admitted carrying at least 20 into Australia.
She pleaded guilty to one charge of importing a commercial quantity of heroin.
The report said judge Michael Cahill acknowledged that the flight attendant’s family predicament would attract a degree of mercy at sentencing next month, although she knew her actions were wrong and the harm drugs caused.
It said the Malaysian’s failure to show at a scheduled exchange alerted the syndicate that something was wrong, and Tran and the others were arrested in the following days.
However, three members, all Malaysian nationals, flew out of Australia before they could be arrested.
Tran appeared in court on Monday to plead guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug and trafficking a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug. She is due to face a plea hearing next month.
Another four syndicate members also appeared in court on Tuesday and yesterday, and two more had been sentenced by magistrates, the report said.
Source : FMT