Senior policemen suspended in Central Highlands drug case

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Police in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak have suspended two senior administrators pending a criminal investigation into charges that they failed to properly supervise a drug sting.

Nguyen Cong Chuc, 56, head of the Anti-Subversion Division, and Tran Duc Thinh, 44, deputy chief of police in the province's capital of Buon Ma Thuot, have been suspended from duty pending the findings.

The Dak Lak Police Department's Party Unit has also suspended Chuc's official membership.

On September 27, investigators from Vietnam's highest prosecutorial office announced the launch of a criminal investigation into the two officers who stand accused of "being irresponsible and causing serious consequences."

The accusations relate to their supervision of a drug smuggling investigation in 2005, when Chuc was head of Buon Ma Thuot Investigative Division and Thinh was his deputy.

It is alleged that the two men failed to properly oversee Lieutenant Bui Vu Trong Quoc, who was in charge of investigating a drug smuggler named Kim Van Anh. Lt. Quoc admitted to forging his superiors' signatures on official documents to advance the case.

On August 30, 2005, police raided a hotel room on Nguyen Duc Canh Street and arrested Anh and three others.

According to the officers, the suspects were found to be in possession of about 10 grams of heroin, and VND100 million (current US$5,100) worth of jewelry.

Back at the station, Lt. Quoc allegedly failed to collect statements from all four suspects and did not properly secure all evidence related to the crime.

In December 2005, Buon Ma Thuot police wrapped up the case and proposed charges of drug smuggling against Anh, who was handed a nine-year sentence in March 2006. Anh's appeals were rejected by the Dak Lak People's Court two months later.

However, in September 2007 the Dak Lak police force discovered violations in procedures after conducting a routine review of the Narcotics Division.

Inspectors said they found evidence indicating that Chuc's signature had been forged on several official documents.

In May 2008, Lt. Quoc was arrested and accused of "deliberately falsifying case documents." He confessed to falsifying Chuc's signature because he was afraid that the case would miss its deadline, VietnamNet news website reported.

The paper said Lt. Quoc has not confessed to charges that he allowed some of the suspects to leave the station [without being properly processed] with evidence in their possession.

Lt. Quoc's arrest led to a fresh probe into the drug smuggling case.

The Supreme People's Procuracy has said that the probes are a waste of human resources. An unnamed source at the office described the actions as unnecessary and potentially harmful to the public image of the legal agencies, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, the Dak Lak police's review of the case continues to be underway.

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