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Airline crew face drug smuggling charges

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Eight people have been arrested in Melbourne over a major drug importation, with international airline cabin crew allegedly used as a courier.

The arrests occurred in Melbourne over the past fortnight, during a joint police operation targeting an organised crime syndicate allegedly behind the importation of more than $20 million of illicit drugs into Australia.

Investigators allege the syndicate brought the drugs into the country from Malaysia, by using an international airline cabin crew as a courier.

Over the past eight days, seven properties across Richmond, Southbank, Abbotsford, Sunshine North and Melbourne were raided by police.

Officers seized six kilograms of heroin with a street value of $14.5 million, eight kilograms of methamphetamine with a street value of $6.4 million and half a kilo of cocaine.

Investigators also seized a Porsche Macan, a Mini Cooper and a significant quantity of cash.

Four women and four men were charged and have appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court. Six were remanded to reappear in May while two were bailed.

The alleged offenders are linked to the trafficking of at least six kilograms of high-grade heroin and eight kilograms of methamphetamine during the five-month operation.

Crime Command Assistant Commissioner Tess Walsh said the syndicate was well organised and had operated across Australia undetected for many years.

She said its dismantling is a significant win for police and the Victorian community.

"The amount of heroin alone involved in this investigation amounts to almost 50,000 hits in real terms," she said.

"We know the harm that drugs bring - not just the physical and health impacts on users, but the negative flow on effects to the broader community such as property crime, assaults and drug driving."

AFP Commander Amanda Kates said the operation showed strong co-operation between state and commonwealth law enforcement agencies.

Australian Border Force Regional Commander Victoria, Craig Palmer, said any attempt to bring drugs into the country would be met with the full force of Australian border and law enforcement agencies, before, at and after the border.

"Airline staff are not above the law. 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," he said.

The operation, which began last August, was conducted by a joint taskforce involving Australian Federal Police, Victoria Police, Australian Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, with help from the Victoria Police Drug Taskforce.

© AAP 2019

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