A flight attendant has been jailed for nearly a decade for hiding heroin in her underwear and smuggling it into Australia to cover her chronically ill daughter's medical bills.
It took Zailee Zainal three months to learn to walk confidently with the one kilogram packages of heroin between her legs.
The Malaysian-based Malindo Air cabin crew member smuggled eight of these into Melbourne between October 2018 and January 2019.
When she was caught, the 40-year-old told border authorities she thought it was probably marijuana but not heroin.
She said she had only agreed to smuggle the drugs to pay for her daughter's hospital bills.
The girl had been born with a serious anorectal abnormality, and required ongoing surgeries and medication.
Zainal was desperate and agreed to courier drugs for a highly sophisticated transnational syndicate.
Each time she arrived, she gave the drugs to another woman, known as "rich aunty" in a hotel toilet in exchange for about $155,000 a package.
"I was vulnerable and at the time willing to do anything to be able to pay for (my daughter's) operations and medical expenses," Zainal told Victoria's County Court.
"At this time, I only thought about (my daughter) and my family. I did not think about what these drugs could do to someone else, or their family or friends.
"I'm deeply ashamed and so sorry I became involved".
She was jailed on Thursday for a maximum of nine-and-a-half years. Zainal admitted bringing drugs into Australia at least 20 times overall.
But she pleaded guilty to one combined charge of importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug over eight occasions.
Five "tickets" of heroin, weighing a combined 4kg, were intercepted by police. Another three slipped through.
Judge Michael Cahill said the circumstances that led Zainal to courier the drugs deserved some leniency and mercy.
"You worked as an international courier for a highly sophisticated transnational drug syndicate. You were carefully trained to execute your role, using codes and changing flights, to perform it eight times," the judge said.
"While you were not told you were carrying heroin, you knew you were carrying a border controlled drugs and persons in Melbourne were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for them."
The drug ring was run by the Melbourne-based "Queen of Richmond", Michelle Ngoc Tran, who is awaiting sentence for her crimes.
Zainal must serve four years and nine months before she can be considered for release on parole. She has already spent 640 days behind bars awaiting sentence.
Australian Associated Press