Australian Federal Police have arrested two flight crews and six other people as part of a six-month exercise codenamed Operation Sunrise. Four women of theirs and 40s were among those who were filed and four charges of importing controlled drugs.
Flight attendants from Malindo Air, a Malaysia-based carrier which is a subsidiary of Indonesia's Lion Air, having been smuggled into drugs on their behalf of the crime syndicate, Australian investigators alley. One of the investigation's "key players" said they had made at least 20 such trips.
"(This) has been going on for a long period of time," said Asst. Commissioner Tess Walsh, spokeswoman for the Australian Federal Police's Crime Command.
The airline released a statement acknowledging that at least one of its employees had been arrested, and said that the company had no communication with the staff member or authorities. The statement, from the head of PR and communications Andrea Liong, confirmed it was in contact with the Malaysian consulate in Melbourne over the matter.
"Malindo Air stands ready to co-operate with all the relevant authorities in Australia or in Malaysia in this regard, "the statement reads, adding that it was an isolated incident and that the cabin crew member" has also been suspended with immediate effect pending termination. "
CNN requested further information from the airline regarding the alleged involvement of a second member of the company's flight team. The company was "not aware that … another crew (member) from Malindo Air is involved."
The police operation targeted a "highly organized" Vietnamese crime syndicate based in Melbourne and operating out of the southern city For some years, Walsh said. [Police] The syndicate had been operating across Australia for more than five years. It was believed to be responsible for the import of high-grade heroin and methamphetamine from Malaysia.
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A further 6kg (13lbs) of meth, with a street value of A $ 6.5 million ($ 4.6 million) was also seized during seven raids on properties in Melbourne and its suburbs, as half a kilo of cocaine, vehicles including a Porsche Sports car and a "significant quantity" of cash.
The quantity of illicit drugs seized in the operation is significantly but "not the total amount of drugs" alleged to have been imported, according to Walsh.
AFP Regional Commander Victoria, Craig Palmer said: "They are subject to intervention at the border like everyone else and face significant penalties if they are found using their positions to attempt to circumvent our border controls, "he said.
Malindo Air, which began flights in 2013, operates out of the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Petaling Jaya and serves several Australian destinations. It currently operates 800 flights weekly to over 40 regional and international destinations.