Vietnam court sentences Nigerian man to death for drug trafficking

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Ugah Victor Uchenna reacts to being sentenced to death by the HCMC Supreme People's Court on January 10

A Ho Chi Minh City court of appeals on Thursday (January 10) sentenced a 42-year-old Nigerian man to death for drug trafficking.

Previously, Ugah Victor Uchenna, had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in an international narcotics ring, which included inducing several Vietnamese to help him move heroin from India to Vietnam and onto China.

The HCMC Supreme People's Court approved a prosecutorial appeal asking that Uchenna have the life sentence he received last April amended to the death penalty.

Cao Thi My Dung, 52, Uchenna's Vietnamese lover, had the 20-year sentence she received earlier extended to life in prison.

Uchenna and Dung were busted trying to take 966 grams of heroin from Vietnam into China.

The judges rejected the appeal of Nguyen Thi Xuan Huong, 58, for lighter punishment, sentencing her to death for attempting to smuggle around 6.9 kilograms of heroin.

Truong Thi Duy Tuyen, 53, was sentenced to 20 years for trading half a kilogram of heroin received from Huong.

Earlier, Le Thanh Phuong, 35, Huong's son-in-law, was sentenced to 18 years for his role in the ring, according to a Tuoi Tre report. 

Uchenna and Dung maintained their innocence throughout the appeal hearing, Dung adding that she had been coerced into making her initial confession.

The judges rejected their story, saying there was sufficient evidence to substantiate their guilt. 

Huong and Dung had confessed to police that while working for Uchenna they hired several people to smuggle drugs from India into Vietnam, and then on to China. They said that three other Nigerians only known as Philip, John and Ken, were also involved in Uchenna's operation.

According to the indictment, Uchenna, who also goes by Frank, came to Vietnam as tourist, then remained in HCMC illegally with an expired visa, cohabiting with Dung.  

Through Dung, he recruited Huong and others to join his smuggling operation.

In August 2008, he paid Huong US$500 for the first shipment to go from Vietnam to China. 

Uchenna and Dung introduced Huong to Philip, who hired Huong in January 2009. Huong carried drugs for Philip and recruited others to join the ring.

Five months later, Philip asked Huong to bring heroin, which he intended to then import to China, from India back to Vietnam. Finding the drugs difficult to move, Philip asked Huong to sell the drugs locally in Vietnam.

Huong had her daughter, Le Nguyen Xuan Nhi, who later died due to an unidentified illness, hide the drugs at her coffee shop in HCMC's District 1 and Tuyen would sell them.

In July 2009, Huong and Nhi were busted with 6.4 kilograms of heroin, leading to the arrest of their accomplices.

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