A senior member of cabin crew at Malaysia Airlines has been jailed for 12-months after being caught trying to smuggle £150,000 in criminal cash out of Heathrow Airport in West London. Muhamad Aziz, a 37-year old flight attendant who is from Selangor in Malaysia was jailed at Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday after pleading guilty to money laundering.
Aziz, who had worked for Malaysia Airlines for 15-years, was caught earlier this year at Heathrow Airport just before he was due to work a flight back to Kuala Lumpur. Customs officers discovered £100,000 in Aziz’s black cabin bag and a further £50,000 stuffed into his suit carrier when security officers raised the alarm after noticing the odd contents on x-ray images of his belongings.
At first, Aziz told law enforcement that he had brought the money from Malaysia with him in on to spend it on expensive designer handbags from Harrods during his layover. He initially claimed that after a long and tiring flight he just didn’t have the energy to venture out to London’s shopping district but shopping receipts found in his wallet proved he had actually been hitting the High Street during his layover.
Calling Aziz’s story “so far-fetched as to be almost laughable,” the National Crime Agency’s operations manager for Heathrow Airport, Ian Truby said he had used his knowledge of airport regulations and security procedures to act as a cash courier for a criminal gang.
Claiming Aziz had used his profession as a “cover” for criminality, Truby explained that gangs rely on cash couriers like Aziz. During interviews and at trial, Aziz failed to explain what his motivations were or who else was involved. It’s not known where the cash originally came from although the court ordered it to be forfeited under the Proceeds of Crime Act so will likely go back to the community.
Earlier this year, the National Crime Agency described corrupt flight attendants as “very dangerous people” following the arrest of a flight attendant who worked for Emirates. Zohaab Sadique was caught trying to smuggle £100,000 worth of Heroin into the United Kingdom which he had smuggled all the way from Pakistan. Again, Sadique had used his knowledge of aviation security in an attempt to smuggle the drugs undetected.
Whether they were motivated by greed or some other need, we’ve seen quite a few recent incidents of flight attendants attempting to take advantage of their privileged position to smuggle money, drugs, and gold for criminal gangs.