Reports have emerged from down under that eight individuals have been apprehended in a drug sting operation over the last ten days involving AU$20 million (RM 59 million/US$14.3 million) worth of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine brought into the country.
Authorities report that the syndicate used cabin crew from Malindo Air, a Malaysia-based low-cost airline, to import the drugs into Australia via Melbourne and Sydney.
Australian Federal Police (AFP), along with Victoria Police, the Australian Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, have dubbed it “Operation Sunrise,” with investigations into the organized-crime group spanning the last five months. However, authorities believe that the group had been operating for at least five years before coming up on police radar, and that the drugs seized are “not the total amount of drugs” that the syndicate had imported.
Initial questioning has revealed that one of the suspects made up to 20 trips into Australia for the group before being busted.
Among those arrested were a 38-year-old woman in Tullamarine, notably, the point of entry for Malindo flights. The airline confirmed that one of their cabin crew was indeed arrested on January 7 upon entering the airport.
Another six based in and around Melbourne being taken in the following day. A week later, another woman was arrested. Two of the suspects are of Vietnamese origin, and police believe the group was a Vietnamese-run syndicate.
Drugs seized included six kilos of heroin, eight kilos of methamphetamine and 500 grams of cocaine. Luxury cars, AU$100,000 and drug paraphernalia were also confiscated by cops.
As per their website, Malindo’s point of entry into Melbourne is via Bali, with no scheduled flight to Sydney. Two other Australian cities are also served, with a Kuala Lumpur to Perth route, and another Brisbane via Bali ticket offered. Plans to open a Sydney route are on the table for 2019.
Malindo Air has said that they have suspended the arrested employee, that no other cabin crew members on the suspect’s flight were involved, and that they are cooperating fully with relevant authorities.