SINGAPORE: A Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew member was arrested last Sunday at Sydney International Airport after he allegedly tried to bring in 1.6kg of heroin.
Nicholas Tan Ngat Liang, 50, was a leading steward who was believed to be on duty during the flight from Singapore to Sydney.
In response to TODAY's queries, a spokesperson from the Australian Federal Police confirmed that a 50-year-old Singaporean was arrested on Sunday and has been charged with "importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely heroin". "The man was arrested for attempting to import 1.6kg of heroin into Australia," the spokesperson said.
In Australia, the offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and/or an A$825,000 fine (S$1.1 million). Tan's case was first mentioned in a New South Wales court on Monday.
Responding to TODAY's queries, SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides said: "We can confirm that a member of our cabin crew was detained recently in Sydney by the police. As it is a police matter, it would not be appropriate for us to provide further comment."
A spokesperson from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the ministry has so far not received any request to extend its assistance on the matter.
When this reporter visited Tan's condo in Simei on Friday, a man and a woman who answered the door declined to comment, saying that it was "not the right time".
The Singapore Police Force said that cabin crew members and pilots are "subjected to the same level of checks as departing passengers prior to boarding the aircraft". It added: "The authorities conduct screening on persons and their hand-carry baggage. Checked baggage is also subjected to screening upon check-in at the departure hall."
An SIA flight steward, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim, said that at Sydney International Airport, random checks - which occur about "50 per cent of the time" - are conducted on cabin crew after their flights touch down.
According to the Australian Federal Police website, there were 332 seizures involving heroin between 2009 and May 31, 2010.
There have been previous reported cases of Singaporeans who were caught in Australia's airports for trying to bring in drugs. In August 2009, a Singaporean man was sentenced to a jail term of 11 years and three months for importing 4.3kg of heroin from Kuala Lumpur. The drug was concealed in food items. - TODAY