Police in the southern province of Ba Ria Vung Tau on Wednesday said they are investigating a ring accused of illegally transporting people into Australia by sea.
The police said they have detained the ring leader, 47-year-old Nguyen Dinh Chien, and two other people on charges of smuggling people into foreign countries.
Initial information indicates that Chien's ring sent 123 people from Nghe An, Ba Ria Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City to Australia in the past year, beginning May 2010, police said.
However, all the illegal immigrants were arrested by Australian authorities as soon as they entered Australian waters, and they were sent to refugee areas, police said. Three fishing boats, which were used to transport the people on three occasions, were destroyed as well.
According to police, so far 21 of the illegal immigrants have been deported to Vietnam, while others are still waiting to complete all procedures for returning.
Police started investigating the case after the deported people sent them letters with accusations against Chien, Tuoi Tre reported Thursday.
The accusers said Chien convinced them that they would find good jobs and enjoy great social welfare in Australia, and that he would send them to Australia for VND50-80 million (US$2,380-3,800) per person, instead of some VND200 million ($9,500) as charged by labor companies.
Dau Van Quang, 21, one of the illegal immigrants, told Thanh Nien that he was brought to Australia together with 25 others on a fishing boat in early May 2010.
Before reaching Australian waters, the boat's generators broke several times during the two-week journey, Quang said.
Further investigations are now underway.