Eight people have been arrested over an operation to import drugs into Australia, allegedly brought in by international airline staff.
Two international airline staff allegedly imported high-grade heroin and ice into Sydney and Melbourne as part of a major trafficking ring authorities say has been operating for years.
A female Malindo Air cabin crew employee and another staffer from the airline are among eight people arrested in Melbourne in the past fortnight.
Authorities allege a Melbourne-based Vietnamese organised crime syndicate imported more than $20 million of high grade heroin and methamphetamine from Malaysia.
The two airline employees allegedly hid the drugs on their bodies, with one accused telling authorities it was the 20th time they had done it.
Officers seized six kilograms of heroin with a street value of $14.5 million, eight kilograms of methamphetamine worth $6.4 million and half a kilo of cocaine during raids on seven Melbourne properties.
Investigators also seized a Porsche Macan, a Mini Cooper and a significant quantity of cash.
Victoria police Crime Command Assistant Commissioner Tess Walsh said the seizure of heroin alone equated to 42,000 street deals.
Drug syndicate running for years
Ms Walsh says the highly organised syndicate has operated for "five-plus" years.
"This is a significant seizure but I think reality would say it's not the total amount of drugs that this team have brought into this country," she said.
The couriers entered Australia, mainly through Melbourne and Sydney, with authorities conceding the method used is of "significant concern".
Two of those charged are locally-based key players while others are a mix of Australian citizens of Vietnamese origin and foreign nationals.
Federal police Commander Amanda Kates said the investigation was ongoing, with inquiries under way in Malaysia and locally.
"We have known of this syndicate for extensive periods of time, but our inquiries have been fruitless. Only in the past five months have we indicated that it may be cabin crew involved," she said.
Over the past eight days, properties across Richmond, Southbank, Abbotsford, Sunshine North and Melbourne were raided.
Four women and four men were charged and faced Melbourne Magistrates Court. They will reappear in May.
Ms Walsh said the syndicate's dismantling was significant in terms of reducing harm in the community.
"We're sad to say we've seen a re-emergence of heroin, particularly in Victoria, which has led to a number of fatal overdoses," she said.
Australian Border Force Regional Commander Victoria, Craig Palmer, said airline staff were not above the law and any attempt to import drugs would result in significant penalties.
"Over the last 12 months, the ABF has made a number significant detections involving airline crew attempting to smuggle both illicit tobacco and illicit drugs into Australia, and in all occasions swift action was taken," he said.
Law enforcement authorities hailed strong co-operation between agencies as key to busting the ring.
The five-month operation involved AFP, Victoria Police, Border Force and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, with help from the Victoria Police Drug Taskforce.