Richmond drug 'Queen' jailed for 18 years

Liz Hobday
·2-min read

The head of an international drug syndicate who dubbed herself the "Queen of Richmond" has been sentenced to 18 years in jail.

Michelle Ngoc Tran used flight cabin crew coming from Malaysia to import large amounts of heroin, by hiding it in their underwear.

Tran pleaded guilty to importing and trafficking a commercial quantity of heroin and will serve a non-parole period of 13 years.

Victorian County Court Judge Michael Cahill found Tran was the head of a highly sophisticated drug consortium.

"Your offending was extremely serious and your culpability is very high," he told her.

"You were selling heroin at the top level of domestic distribution."

Tran's Malaysian Airlines and Malindo Air flight attendants would import about a kilogram of the drug at a time, for which Tran would pay $155,000 .

But authorities were tracking the syndicate's activities, and in late 2018 they intercepted six kilograms of heroin, with a street value of up to $8 million.

Detectives also intercepted seven kilograms of methamphetamine, worth up to $2.8 million on the streets, as wells as cocaine worth $320,000.

The court heard Tran boasted she had a kilogram of heroin being delivered to Australia every week, and her drugs were "the highest purity available in Australia".

She also told associates she had been in the drug business for nearly 30 years, and her name was very famous.

Judge Cahill found Tran's primary motivation was profit, despite her submissions to the court that she had to pay off gambling debts.

While Tran and her associates were preparing for one of the drug runs on 2 October 2018, they discussed attending a "birthday party" for which they had to "buy a present".

Tran confirmed she would buy a "bottle of perfume", referring to a sample of heroin.

That day, a Malindo Air flight attendant smuggled a kilo of heroin into Australia, and then exchanged the drugs for cash in the level one toilets at the Oaks on Collins hotel in Melbourne.

Tran paid $155,000 for each kilogram of heroin, which she later sold wholesale for $195,000.

The court heard Tran worked with six other main players in the syndicate, but distanced herself from the actual drug transactions.

At the Malaysian end of the drug operation, Tran dealt with a man known as "Mr Hanoi" through two of her associates, called "The Manager" and "Johnny".

"Mr Hanoi" would alert Tran when the heroin was about to arrive in Australia.

Judge Cahill said she organised so-called "soldiers" to deal with the drugs and customers, and while Tran was very aware of the risk of getting caught, this did not put her off.