Around 400 kilograms of gold have been smuggled to Vietnam by two connected rings busted in early February, investigators say.
The arrested people have confessed to smuggling in more than half a ton of the precious metal. but police have only counted around 400 kilos so far.
Six people were detained after they were caught smuggling 92 kilograms of gold from An Giang Province neighboring Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City February 10.
They were first caught earlier that month in the Mekong Delta Province of Tien Giang, halfway between An Giang and HCMC, with the gold.
Investigators found that the ring was tightly-organized and operating on a large scale.
Nguyen Ngoc Luan, 52, one of the arrested and owner of a pawn shop in An Giang, said two women from Phnom Penh approached them in October last year to invite him into the ring. They have since contacted him only via phone, Luan said.
Gold from Cambodia was brought to his shop. Then he delivered it to big gold shops in HCMC's District 5, at 5-35 kilos of gold to each shop at a time.
Luan hired his brother-in-law Le Van Don, 51, who was also arrested, to bring the gold with him on bus. Don was paid VND800,000-1.2 million (US$42-63) each journey.
When he was arrested, Don was carrying with him 62 kilograms of gold at a time when the demand for the yellow metal in HCMC was high with the Tet (traditional Lunar New Year) festival approaching.
He'd brought 35 kilos of gold the previous night, Don said.
He said he had made 32 journeys and did not remember the total amount of gold smuggled, but the last four trips had brought in 137 kilograms.
In 1998, Luan had been detained for 18 months for smuggling five kilos of gold. But the case was suspended and the gold returned, for reasons not known yet.
Nguyen Thi Tuyet Van, 44, a sister in-law of Luan, followed in his footsteps to find Cambodian partners and set up her own ring from December last year, also selling gold to shops in HCMC.
Van said she earned $20-30 on a kilo and made good money thanks to large purchases.
Her delivery man, Hong Duc Sanh, 60, had carried 275 kilograms of gold in 31 journeys, investigators said.