Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Two flight attendants for a Malaysian airline were among eight people arrested and accused of smuggling drugs into Australia for a criminal organization, authorities said Wednesday.
One of the flight attendants, a 38-year-old woman working for Malindo Airlines, was arrested at Melbourne Airport earlier this month after officials said she carried a kilogram of heroin on a flight.
Authorities said they've known about the Melbourne-based Vietnamese crime syndicate for years, but only recently found information they were using airline crews to smuggle in drugs on nearly two dozen flights.
"We have known of this syndicate for a very extensive period of time but our inquiries had been fruitless," Australian Federal Police Cmdr. Amanda Kates said. "Only in the last five months have we indicated that it may be a cabin crew involved."
Victoria Police Asst. Commissioner Tess Walsh said the syndicate's top operators in Australia have been arrested. The arrests came after a five-month investigation that indicated more than $20 million worth of drugs flowed from Malaysia to Australia.
Officers raided locations in Richmond, Southbank, Abbotsford, Sunshine North and Melbourne over the past eight days. Over that time, they seized 6 kilograms of heroin with a street value of $14.5 million, eight kilograms of methamphetamine worth $6.4 million and half a kilogram of cocaine. A Porsche Macan, a Mini Cooper and a large quantity of cash were also taken.
In all, prosecutors charged four women and four men in Melbourne Magistrates Court. Six were taken into custody and are due in court in May, while the other two were released on bail.