Flight Attendant Caught Smuggling $190,000 Cash, Says They Just Were Too Tired to Go Shopping

Flight crew are responsible for our safety during travel, and they’re usually highly responsible. We trust them.

Because flight crew are trusted they get less scrutiny at security checkpoints and at immigration and customs. That makes them ideal mules.

A Malaysia Airlines flight attendant was jailed prior to a London Heathrow – Kuala Lumpur flight after being found with about $192,000 in cash going through airport security.

After scanning his bags, security staff at Heathrow Terminal 4 called in Border Force officers, who found £100,000 cash in a roller bag and another £50,000 in his black suit carrier.

Swabs taken from the cash tested positive for cocaine. Aziz was arrested for money laundering.

The flight attendant explained he brought the cash with him to go shopping with — but was too tired after his inbound flight to do so. There were three problems with this story:

  1. Malaysia Airlines flight attendants don’t make so much more than their international counterparts.

  2. Bringing in the cash without declaring it is itself a crime.

  3. He had receipts on him showing that in fact he did go shopping during his layover.

He was sentenced to 12 months in prison for money laundering. Most of the time though crew carrying cash and other illicit items manage to do so unimpeded.

If insider trading were legal companies wouldn’t need to pay executives so much – they’d monetize their knowledge and in some cases might even pay the company for their positions. Maybe the same idea could be applied to flight attendants. Governments could turn a blind eye to smuggling, and that would solve airline revenue problems with employees bidding for their jobs.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. What’s in your wallet? You might be surprised to find traces of cocaine on your cash. Nothing to do with you, that’s just the way it is.

  2. In the early 90s Miami cops gave up using traces of cocaine on money when going after drug dealers. All the money in Miami had traces of cocaine on it.

  3. At one time there was traces of cocaine on a very high percentage of the money in circulation. If they arrested everyone that had “traces of cocaine” on their money that would be a majority of people traveling.

  4. If the criminals took the time to do any research on YouTube, British authorities have drug sniffing dogs to detect the presence of large quantities of cash. It would be pretty easy to catch other airlines employees if they were subject to the same scrutiny as others.

  5. In this day & age of credit cards, who the heck would bring darn near US$200,000 in physical cash to go shopping?! Surely he could have found a better excuse!
    I used to work in forex, so I could see a few scenarios:
    1. Somebody in Malaysia accepted pounds as payment in their shop/ business (lawful or otherwise) and wanted them deposited into a UK bank account or exchanged for ringgits at a better rate than/ avoiding fees of a local bank. Most banks will not accept foreign cash for a cashier’s check/ draft/ wire of that same amount in that currency. They will make you exchange the cash into their home currency, then back into that currency, with commission/ profit/ spread on both ends, which would be several thousand pounds here!
    Of course, as stated above, the FA was in violation for not declaring the currency import. And how could this businessman trust the FA not to disappear & steal the cash?! Then the FA was rejected by the London bank which smelled money-laundering, so had to return home with the cash.
    2. The FA sold or delivered something (probably illegal) to the UK and was paid in cash to be returned to Malaysia.

  6. Only 12 months in prison for carrying cash !!

    Maybe that’s what his pay was for the previous shipments. He was just taking it home.

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