Death penalty sought for 34 of 89 drug smugglers in major Vietnam trial

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Vietnamese prosecutors recommended the death penalty for 34 of 89 defendants in a major drug smuggling trial in the northern province of Quang Ninh Monday.


The 89 defendants, belonging to four related drug smuggling rings, were accused of bringing a total of over 1.47 tons of heroin, 35 kilograms of methamphetamine, and over 323,400 tablets of synthetic drugs from Laos to Vietnam and from Vietnam to China, according to the hearing held by the provincial People's Court.


But on Monday, prosecutors from the Supreme People's Procuracy, the country's highest prosecution agency, said extended investigations by Quang Ninh police showed the defendants smuggled in a total 32,000 bricks of heroin weighing 12 tons, online newspaper VnExpress reported.


The rings were busted following the arrest of Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc, 54, who had been bringing illegal narcotics from Laos to Vietnam since 2006, in April 2012, according to the indictment.


Prosecutors said the first ring operated in Laos and was led by Sa Van Cau, 40, who remains at large.


The second ring was led by Nguyen Hung Dung, 35, and Song A Lau, 37, to send drugs across the country for consumption.


Nguyen Thanh Tuan and his wife, Vu Thi Thanh Hien, both 32, were in charge of the third ring, which smuggled drugs from Vietnam to China.


The fourth ring, led by Nguyen Thi Hoan and Nguyen Ngoc Doan, also brought drugs to China.


Of the 34 defendants who face the death penalty, 12 belong to the first ring, 11 belong to the second ring, nine belong to the third ring and two belong to the fourth ring.


Prosecutors also recommended nine life sentences.


Other defendants face jail terms between nine months' probation to 20 years in jail.


Twenty-seven of the 89 defendants were women.


In addition to drug smuggling, the defendants also face charges including illegally keeping military weapons, illegal business activities, forging documents and bribery.


The trial, one of the largest of its kind in Vietnam, is slated to conclude on January 20.


Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty.


The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.


Vietnam officially switched from the firing squad to lethal injection in November 2011. But it was not until last August that the country executed its first prisoner with the new method due to the unavailability of drugs used for lethal injections.


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