Vietnam Airlines staff arrested in smuggling probe

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Inspectors from the Ministry of Public Security on Tuesday said they have arrested a staff of Vietnam Airlines and an accomplice for allegedly smuggling electronics from Australia into Vietnam.


Initial investigations show that Nguyen Duc Vu, who works for the Ho Chi Minh City-based Tan Son Nhat Airport Operation Control Center belonging to the national carrier, was paid by two people to take smuggled goods, mainly mobile phones, to get throughh customs.


The identities of the two people have not been revealed. Vu is suspected to have received VND200 million (US$10,545) for helping smuggle the items between August 2002 and this May, investigators said.


The items were brought in two and three times per week, they added.


After collecting the goods, Vu would send them to Nguyen Minh Hoang in Binh Thanh District, who then would distribute them to Mai Phu Trong and others.


Joining the ring in 2007, Hoang, who was nabbed together with Vu, was allegedly paid VND70 million ($3,691).


Inspectors also confiscated $20,000, VND20 million ($1,054) in cash and related materials at the houses and workplaces of Hoang and Vu.


Further investigation is ongoing into the case, they said.


Meanwhile, a Vietnam Airlines' representative said 14 crew members of its flight VN782 were detained and questioned by Australian Federal Police on Wednesday morning as they were completing procedures at Sydney airport.


All of them weren't released until 1 p.m. the same day, according to the representative, adding that local police didn't explain why they the crew members were held.


On May 31, 13 crew members of the flight VN782 from Sydney to HCMC were also held for questioning when they were completing procedures to exit the country, the representative said.


According to Pham Ngoc Minh, director general of Vietnam Airlines, the carrier had asked its representative office in Sydney to send all related staff back for further investigation.


Minh said the office and Vietnamese General Consulate in Australia have proposed Australian agencies provide them with specific information, but this has not been done thus far.

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