A Malaysian flight attendant who hid millions of dollars worth of heroin in her underwear has been jailed for nine and a half years by a Melbourne court for her part in a sophisticated crime syndicate that flooded the Victorian city with illegal drugs. Zailee Zainal, 40, who had a privileged position working for both Malaysian Airlines and Malindo Air, will spend the best part of a decade in an Australian prison before likely being deported.
The mother of two smuggled heroin into Australia on at least eight occasions between October 2018 and January 2019 when she was finally caught. In this time, Zainal helped to smuggle at least 4 kilograms of heroin into Australia, with an estimated street value of A$3 million.
With the drugs hidden in her underwear and bra, Zainal would make her way to a hotel where she handed over the heroin in a toilet for cash payment. The mother of three said she had agreed to help the drug smugglers to help pay off her daughter’s mounting medical bills.
The court heard how she spent three months learning how to walk with a pillow between her legs so she could pass through airports with the drugs stuffed in her underwear undetected. During the flights, Zainal would hide the drugs in a toilet before again concealing them in her knickers and bra.
But on January 6, 2019, Zainal was selected for a random search by Australia Border Force at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport. She told officers that she knew she was carrying drugs when the parcels were found on her but denied knowing it was heroin.
Zainal pleaded guilty to one charge of importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug but County Court Judge Michael Cahill said she deserved leniency. “There is a place for the exercise of mercy in sentencing,” the judge said as Zainal wept in court.
“You felt that you had no other option other than to commit a crime,” he continued. “You were desperate to raise money to pay for the operations your daughter needs to improve her quality of life.”
Zainal had remortgaged her home and had even taken to selling brownies in an attempt to raise funds for her daughter’s medical expenses. She even contacted the human resources department at Malindo Air who agreed to send out an email to her colleagues as part of a crowdfunding effort.
It was at this point that a ‘friend’ emailed her with a business proposal. Zainal told the court she was “vulnerable” and agreed to take part in the scheme.
She may be eligible for parole after four years and nine months and Zainal has already served 640 days in pre-trial detention.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.