The right-hand woman for the heroin-trafficking boss known as the Queen of Richmond has made an extraordinary claim in court.
Thi Thuy Tam Tran was known as Lina to her friends and “rich aunty” to the flight attendant who smuggled packages of heroin into Australia between her legs.
County Court judge Michael Cahill said she was the “trusted aide” to Michelle Tran, who called herself the Queen of Richmond and called Lina her soldier.
The 49-year-old admitted to police she was a drug runner for Tran, and they worked together to smuggle millions of dollars worth of heroin from Asia onto Australia’s streets.
But she told police she was only paid $50 amounts for her troubles.
Judge Cahill told Lina her $50 story “defies belief”.
“You had an important position in the hierarchy,” he said.
“She trusted you to collect and deliver substantial quantities of drugs and cash for her.”
The “soldier” wiped away tears as she appeared via video in the court on Friday, listening to a translator tell her she would spend a maximum of 10 years and six months in jail with seven years’ non-parole.
Judge Cahill said the queen preferred not to handle the heroin or cash herself, and delegated that job to Lina.
Lina, the mother of an 11-year-old, pleaded guilty to collecting one kilogram packages of heroin from a Malindo Air flight attendant on three occasions.
The flight attendant snuck the drug into the country in her bra and undies.
In a toilet cubicle in the level one bathroom of a Melbourne hotel, they exchanged the heroin packages for the wholesale price of $155,000 on three occasions in October 2018.
The buyers paid $195,000 per kilogram, leaving $40,000 per kilogram of which the queen kept half.
But despite the huge amounts of money she was dealing with, Lina claimed to police she only helped Tran because she was her friend, not for money.
But Judge Cahill found that tale “implausible”.
Lina was born in Vietnam and moved to Australia in 1992, Judge Cahill said.
In the late 1990s she was introduced to heroin and became addicted, but managed to stop using when her daughter was born in 2009.
“As a single mother, you took good care of your daughter, who is missing you,” Judge Cahill said.
But he said the daughter was receiving counselling because of the separation brought about my Lina’s jail sentence.
Michelle Tran has pleaded guilty and will be sentenced at a later date.