‘Humble, polite’ businessman jailed for role in heroin smuggling gang

‘Humble, polite’ businessman jailed for role in heroin smuggling gang


Family, friends and even the judge that handed down his sentence still struggle to comprehend why Beng Lee Goh, a successful, humble and polite Malaysian businessman flew to Australia to traffic heroin.

Goh, who was part of an international drug importation syndicate, was sentenced to a maximum of six years in prison in the County Court on Wednesday.

Goh was arrested outside the Immigration Museum.

Goh arrived in Melbourne with two friends on January 4 last year. Four days later he carried one kilogram of heroin from his CBD hotel to the Immigration Museum, where he handed the drugs to a buyer and was arrested soon after.

A 44-year-old businessman and father of two, Goh was part of a syndicate run in Melbourne by Michelle Ngoc Tran, the self-styled "Queen of Richmond", who used flight attendants to smuggle heroin into Australia and marshalled her "soldiers" to meet the flight attendants and exchange cash for the drugs.

County Court judge Michael Cahill said it continued to be a mystery why Goh became involved in such a risky and complex crime.

“The risk you took was very high. You have offered no explanation for your involvement,” Judge Cahill said.

The key players

MICHELLE NGOC TRAN, 49. Also known as Lily, Ngoc, “The Queen” or “The Queen of Richmond”. Melbourne-based head of an international syndicate involved in the importation of heroin in Australia. Drove a red 2016 Mini Cooper sedan. 

MR HANOI. Drug supplier to “The Queen”, based in Malaysia. Contact between the two was facilitated by men known as Johnny and “The Manager” who were both based overseas. 

KHA TIEN NGO, 57. Also went by the name of Danny and Brother Hung. Drove a white Porsche Macan wagon. Was of significant standing within the Melbourne-based arm of the syndicate. 

ZAILEE HANA BINTI ZAINAL, 40. Malaysian national who at the time of her arrest was a member of Malindo Air cabin crew. Also went by the names Joanna and Mary. Carried out about 20 drug importations before her arrest in January last year. 

THI THUY TAM TRAN, 49. Also known as Lina and Tam. Came to Australia in 1992 and was a friend of The Queen. Worked as a courier, collecting drugs from crew members in hotel bathrooms and paying them in cash. 

BENG LEE GOH, 44. Malaysian national who also was known as Raymond and used the name Tommy during offending, guilty of trafficking heroin. 

THUY THANH THI TRAN, 57 and son KHOI PHAN, 28. Thi Tran, also known as Phung or Sister Phung, helped to source methamphetamine which she gave to her son to sell to Ngo.  

A 45-year-old Malaysian national who was a member of the Malindo Air cabin crew left Australia last in December, 2018 and has not returned. 

A 38-year-old woman known as Princess has not yet been charged and is currently in custody in WA for unrelated matters. 

“Your founding business partners were shocked to learn of your crime. They know you as humble and polite, intelligent and creative.

“It is difficult to understand why, as a successful businessman, you did take the risk.”

Goh, who appeared from the Metropolitan Remand Centre, wiped away tears as his sentence was read.

Judge Cahill said he gave Goh a shorter than usual minimal term of imprisonment of three years because of his excellent chances of rehabilitation and fervent dedication to personal development and repentance after being arrested.

How it worked

  • “Mr Hanoi” alerts Michelle Ngoc Tran (Melbourne head of the syndicate known as “The Queen”) of upcoming flights to Australia. 
  • Code words are used to refer to various cities in Australia to indicate where the heroin would arrive. 
  • Mr Hanoi, in Malaysia, and other overseas associates liaise with cabin crew members. 
  • Cabin crew members would import “tickets” of heroin – each weighing approximately one kilogram – into Australia smuggled in their underwear.
  • Tran arranges for her couriers to meet the crew member once they have arrived in Australia to complete the importation. 
  • Transactions would usually occur in the toilets of the hotel where the crew member was staying. 
  • Tran would arrange for her couriers to collect the drugs and pay the crew member in cash to return to Mr Hanoi. Crew members would return to Malaysia within 10 hours. 

Judge Cahill cited a statement from prison authorities, who said they “can’t recall seeing a prisoner being so driven to developing himself into a better and more functional person”.

“He has been consistently good at his work … [Goh] has improved the quality and variation of the food in the staff kitchen,” the statement said.

Other members of the syndicate fronted court in September after admitting their roles in the scheme, which imported 6.6 kilograms of heroin, with a street value of up to $8 million, into Melbourne between October 2 and January last year.

Goh had left the hotel with one of his friends but the friend returned to the hotel minutes later, leaving Goh to take the drugs to the museum by himself. He later pleaded guilty to trafficking a marketable quantity of heroin.

Judge Cahill had previously said Goh was "caught red-handed".

After Goh's arrest outside the museum, police found the hotel room empty and were unable to prevent Goh's two friends from flying out of Melbourne a few days later on January 10 last year.

Before his arrest, Goh did not have a criminal record. He will be eligible for parole in three years and has already served 638 days of pre-sentence detention.

Other syndicate members will be sentenced at a later date.

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