A Ho Chi Minh City court sentenced an immigration officer and three people to 9-16 years in prison Thursday for smuggling in luxury cars worth over US$5.3 million with the help of dozens of overseas Vietnamese.
At the trial, the city People's Court also ordered prosecutors to investigate the role played by other customs officers and overseas Vietnamese who allegedly abetted Nguyen Quang Vinh, 33, and his accomplices in illegally importing 54 cars between January 2011 and December 2012.
The cars were declared as belonging to 54 overseas Vietnamese who were returning to Vietnam for permanent residency, thus getting exemption from import and valued-added taxes.
However, their supposed owners had never sought permanent residency in the country, but allowed Vinh and his accomplices to use their names for a fee of $1,000-10,000 each.
Prosecutors said 36 of the overseas Vietnamese involved were introduced to Vinh by Nguyen Giang Lam, 40, then an officer in the city's immigration department.
Lam also approved their residency paperwork and was paid $10,000 each time for his services, they said.
The rest were found by Vinh himself and Tran Phuoc Thanh, 48, and Tran Thai Nguyen, 33, providers of import and export services.
The cars were all luxury brands like Audi, BMW and Rolls Royce, and the unpaid taxes are estimated at VND218 billion ($10 million), according to prosecutors.
Vinh and Lam got 16 years each while Thanh and Nguyen got nine.
Prosecutors said the 22 of the overseas Vietnamese have turned in to authorities a total of $44,500 they got from Vinh, and 38 of the illegal vehicles have been confiscated.