Police in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday asked prosecutors to press charges against a company director for importing plastic waste into the country.
Phu Thi Thu Nguyet, director of Kim Thu Binh Commerce, Import and Export, Ltd. in Dong Nai Province, was not arrested as she has a little baby.
The police in March found more than 170 tons of dirty, used plastic bags and other kinds of package at a warehouse belonging to Long Vo, Ltd. in HCMC.
The waste was to be sold to Kim Vien Dong Plastic Joint Stock Company, also based in the city.
Investigations show that Kim Thu Binh had imported the waste while declaring in February at the Saigon Port that it was importing 140 tons of scrap metal, which is in many cases legal, from an Auspac Trading Company in Australia.
The shipment was kept in five containers and they made their way out of the port although the customs workers there claimed they had checked the containers manually.
Nguyet said her company had earlier imported another shipment of 14.2 tons of plastic waste that she had sold to some people in Dong Nai whose names she didn't remember.
According to the city Department of Natural Resources and Environment, plastic waste is not among the materials that the government allows to import for direct use in production.
Investigators said they're going to hold Saigon Port's customs officials responsible and look for more people involved in the operation.
There have been several reports of illegal imports of waste in the major port cities of Hai Phong, Quang Ninh and HCMC. But this is the first one to be brought to court as a criminal case.
An investigator from HCMC Police said they didn't have adequate evidence in previous cases. In fact, in other cases, once the police discovered the containers had illegally imported waste, no firm would come forward to claim the ownership.
Senior officials recently warned that the country will become a dumping ground for the world if authorities fail to stop illegal importation of toxic waste.
Hoang Minh Dao, head of the Pollution Management Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, told Thanh Nien in an interview late last month that the importers don't have to pay for the garbage but are paid by exporters from richer countries.
Dao said local firms usually import hazardous waste under the guise of importing "scrap metal" from some fake foreign company, which usually files for bankruptcy the minute the cargo leaves their country to avoid responsibility.
The importers always say their shipment is legal but when authorities find out later that it's not, the receiver named in the shipping manifest either says that the sender has named him by mistake or that the shipment was different from what they signed for, said Nguyen Duc Dang, a senior police officer based in Hai Phong.