"Airline staff are not above the law."
That's the message from Australian Border Force Commander Craig Palmer this morning after eight people, including cabin crew, were arrested over links to a drug syndicate accused of carrying $20 million worth of drugs into Australia.
State and federal police, working closely with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and Border Force, carried out raids on a number of properties across Melbourne last week.
They raided properties in Richmond, Southbank, Sunshine North and Melbourne on January 7 and 8, seizing heroin worth $14.5 million, methamphetamine worth $6.4 million, drug paraphernalia, a Porsche Macan, a Mini Cooper and a significant quantity of cash.
Police arrested four women aged 47, 46, 47 and 38 and four men aged 26, 42, 30 and 46.
All eight appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court. Six were remanded in custody and two were bailed to reappear on May 15.
"Would-be criminals should be aware that any attempts to bring these drugs into the country will be met with the full force of Australian border and law enforcement agencies, before, at and after the border," Commander Palmer said.
"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."
Members of the cabin crew allegedly worked for an airline operating out of Malaysia.
Crime Command Assistant Commissioner Tess Walsh said the syndicate had been operating "undetected" across Australia for many years.
She called them "well organised" and praised officers for dismantling the operation.
"(This) is a significant win for both police and the Victorian community," she said.
"The amount of heroin alone involved in this investigation amounts to almost fifty thousand hits in real terms.
"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.
"This operation has been about ensuring that those within this group are held accountable for their criminal actions and show that police will actively work to disrupt the activities of those willing to bring drugs into Victoria.
"Our work certainly doesn't finish with these arrests and the enforcement of drug offences remains a key priority for not only Victoria Police, but all law enforcement agencies across Australia."
Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Acting Executive Director Intelligence Operations Jason Halls said the result was made possible because ACIC worked closely with other agencies.
"By working together we are seeing significant results in preventing illicit drugs from reaching the community and we will continue to target the serious and organised crime groups who bring these drugs into the country, with no regard for the harm they cause," he said.