Malaysia's Malindo Air crew in A$20 million drug smuggling syndicate, say Australian police

File photo showing a Malindo Air plane on the tarmac of an airport.
File photo showing a Malindo Air plane on the tarmac of an airport.PHOTO: MALINDO AIR

SYDNEY - Cabin crew of international airline Malindo Air have been accused of being members of a smuggling syndicate bringing illegal drugs from Malaysia to Australia, it was reported on Wednesday (Jan 16).

Eight people were arrested in Melbourne over the past fortnight as part of an operation targeting a syndicate responsible for smuggling more than A$20 million (S$19.5 million) worth of high-grade heroin and methamphetamine, police said in a statement.

Investigators allege drugs were carried on the bodies of cabin crew flying from Malaysia to Melbourne and Sydney, the DPA reported.

Victoria Police commander Tess Walsh told reporters the syndicate allegedly used cabin crews of the airline based near Kuala Lumpur to bring drugs into the country, the national broadcaster ABC reported.

Ms Walsh said the complex five-month investigation targeted a Vietnamese organised crime syndicate based in Melbourne.

The syndicate had been operating for five years and the ABC reported that at least two of the eight people arrested were cabin crew with Malindo.

But Malindo affirmed on Jan 16 (Wed) the arrest of only one of its cabin crew and said it has not had any official communication with the staff or from the Australian Federal Police on the detention. 

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

It 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."

Four women and four men were arrested in Melbourne and charged with drug trafficking in relation to the syndicate. Six were remanded in jail to reappear in court in May, while two were granted bail.

Police seized luxury cars, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and drugs during raids in Melbourne earlier this month.

Border Force Victoria commander Craig Palmer said on Wednesday that airline staff were not above the law, the DPA reported.

"They are subject to intervention at the border like everyone else and face significant penalties if they are found to be using their positions to attempt to circumvent our border controls," Mr Palmer added.

Last June, a flight attendant from Malaysian Airlines was arrested at Melbourne airport for allegedly trying to smuggle 3.5kg of heroin worth A$1.4 million in his luggage. The 33-year-old Malaysian man faces drug smuggling charges.