A Hanoi court sentenced a Thai national and three Vietnamese people to death on Thursday for smuggling more than 25 kilograms of heroin and methamphetamine into Vietnam in 2012.
Pornpirom Upapong, Nguyen Thi Thuy Trang, Le Xuan Phu and Phan Thi Lien were convicted of drug smuggling, VnExpress reported.
According to the verdict, Trang owns a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. In late 2011, her permanent guest, Upapong , asked her to recruit people to transport drugs, offering VND6-12 million (US$282-564) in addition to plane tickets and other costs.
Police say Trang was a member of a ring that linked African suppliers to drug "mules" and recruited Phu, Lien and Nguyen Thi Lanh into the operation.
On September 29, 2012, Trang asked Lien to carry two kilograms of heroin from HCMC to Hanoi and give it to Phu.
Vietnamese border guards in Quang Ninh Province arrested Phu on October 1, 2012 as he attempted to smuggle 17 kilograms of heroin into China. He confessed the drugs were given to him by Lien and another person, who remains at large.
Meanwhile, police raided a hotel in Hanoi’s Tu Liem District, just as the Thai woman was delivering five kilograms of heroin to Lien.
Further investigation led to the arrest of Trang.
Investigators say Trang has smuggled 23 kilograms of heroin and nearly 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine into Vietnam
Lanh was arrested in April 2012 for smuggling 2.5 kilograms of heroin into Vietnam and was sentenced to life in prison.
Investigators said Trang, the owner of a hotel on HCMC’s Phan Huy Ich Street, used to seek people suffering from difficulties to lure them into her racket, Cong An Nhan Dan newspaper reported.
Lanh grew up in a poor family and earned a meager salary as a factory worker. Initially, Trang tricked her, convincing Lanh to pick up some anonymous "product."
After discovered the "products" were actually drugs, Lanh agreed to continue, investigators said.
Lien was supporting a younger brother with mental illness and husband--who was remanded to a wheelchair after a terrible accident.
Meanwhile, Upapong was hoping to raise a great deal of money to pay for gender reassignment surgeries.
Hanoi police sent Upapong to a separate detention wing after failing to decide whether to place her in the men's or women's prison facility.
The police say they're still tracking other members of the ring.
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.
In another case, a Ho Chi Minh City court sentenced a Chinese woman to life in prison on June 10 for smuggling around two kilograms of methamphetamine from China to Vietnam.
Li Chun Ying, 27, was convicted of “illegally transporting drugs” by the HCMC People’s Court.
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