Shocking find in hostess’s underwear
A Malaysian flight attendant has been thrown in jail after she agreed to smuggle heroin into Australia in her bra and undies, pushed to desperation over her daughter's mounting health expenses.
It took Zailee Hana Zainal three months of practice before she could walk confidently with a package of heroin between her thighs, Judge Michael Cahill told the County Court of Victoria on Thursday.
The 40-year-old told investigators she had made the trip on more than 20 occasions, playing a crucial role in millions of dollars of the life-destroying drug hitting Australia's streets.
But when sentencing her to nine years and six months' prison with four years and nine months' non-parole, Judge Cahill said she was deserving of leniency because of the tragic motivation behind her illegal smuggling.
Wearing a blue headscarf and white prison uniform, Zainal repeatedly told her lawyer before the sentence began over videolink that she was very nervous: "This is it," she said.
The 40-year-old had never had a sip of alcohol or tried a drug, Judge Cahill said.
But she agreed to take the Malaysian equivalent of $1700 AUD per trip to hide the packages underneath her Malindo Air hostess uniform because of her seriously ill daughter's expensive health requirements.
Judge Cahill said Zainal's daughter, Mia, had grave congenital abnormalities and required repeated surgeries before she was one year old - with more surgeries to come on top of medication for her constant pain.
In a Breaking Bad-esque turn of events, the court heard Zainal began drug trafficking to pay for her family's medical bills.
She first tried selling cupcakes and Tupperware, Judge Cahill said.
Eventually, she and her husband swallowed their pride and sent out an email to their colleagues and associates begging for help - and this was when a ruthless recruiter "took advantage of her vulnerability" and approached the "desperate" woman in March 2018 about joining the trafficking syndicate.
The syndicate was run on the Australian side by the "Queen of Richmond" Michelle Tran, who has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentence.
Zainal's job was to collect the heroin in Malaysia, smuggle it into Australia through her job as a flight attendant, give it to Tran or one of her associates in clandestine bathroom meet-ups, and return to Malaysia to collect her cut.
The customers on the Malindo Air flights Zainal worked on had no idea the woman bringing them drinks and instructing them how to fasten their seatbelts had secret packages of heroin totalling a kilogram inside her bra and knickers.
But it all fell apart when she was arrested at the airport on January 6, 2019.
In a letter to the court, Zainal wrote, "I did not think about what these drugs could do".
"Since being in prison I have seen the terrible effect drugs have on people," she said.
"I am so sorry."
Judge Cahill said Zainal claimed she didn't know the packages contained heroin - but she knew her behaviour wasn't legal.
"You knew you were carrying a border controlled drug, and persons in Melbourne were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.
"You worked as a courier for a highly sophisticated transnational drug syndicate."
Judge Cahill said Zainal's three children including Mia, now nine, will be cared for by her sister while Zainal is in prison.
Her husband - also a flight attendant - is "living off generosity" because of COVID-19.
Zainal pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of heroin relating to eight instances of her drug-trafficking flights.
Originally published as Shocking find in hostess's underwear