Viet kieu wanted for smuggling Italian luxury items into Vietnam

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Some of more than 1,200 Italian luxury items smuggled into Vietnam as Chinese knockoffs and busted by local police last November / PHOTO COURTESY OF VNEXPRESS

Police in Ho Chi Minh City are searching for a Vietnamese American who allegedly masterminded the import of Italian luxury items as fake Chinese knockoffs in a high-profile tax evasion case.

Tran Anh Tuan, 53, is wanted by the HCMC Police Department's economic crime division (PC46) and Interpol, Senior Lieutenant-colonel Cao Xuan Loi, deputy chief of the department's inspectorate, said on Friday.

Police said Tuan earned at least VND45 billion (US$2.1 million) from the illegal business he ran at two Milano and Gucci stores in downtown Ho Chi Minh City between 2009 and 2012.

According to PC46, Tuan and his wife traveled to Italy and France to buy items they would bring to sell in Vietnam.

All the purchases were paid by Gia Phat Thanh Ltd. Co. in HCMC, which would later sell the goods to Milanovina Ltd. Co., also in the city.

Then Milanovina would sell the goods to the stores Tuan ran.

 Tran Anh Tuan, 53, wanted for smuggling in Vietnam

Police said the companies and the stores were all registered under the names of people associated with Tuan.

Tuan's employee Le Hong Duc, 35, was in charge of completing customs clearance procedures when the goods arrived in HCMC, PC46 said.

The case came to light in November last year when PC46 discovered four trucks transporting clothes, handbags, and footwear made by Gucci and other luxury brands to the warehouse of Tuan's Gucci and Milano stores.

At customs, the goods had been declared as of Chinese origin worth only $1.8-7 each, but later a group of experts from Gucci inspected the items and concluded that they were genuine and had been made in Italy

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Police then raided the stores and found many famous brand-name items from Gucci, D&G, and Roberto Cavalli without proper documentation.

Duc was arrested on charges of smuggling and two officers with the HCMC Department of Customs were taken into custody on charges of "dereliction of duty leading to serious consequences."

Tuan is currently on the lam.

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