Vietnam court upholds death sentences against 29 drug smugglers

By Pham Hai Sam, Thanh Nien News

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An appellate hearing was held in Hanoi, on June 19, for 40 of the 89 defendants arrested during the country's largest narcotics case. Photo: Pham Hai Sam
Vietnam's highest court upheld death penalties against 29 of 30 people sentenced to die last January in one of Vietnam's largest drug trafficking cases.
Following a four-day appellate hearing in Hanoi, the Supreme People’s Court reduced a capital sentence handed down to one defendant to life in prison.
Nong Van Len was spared after the judges determined that he had helped investigators bust a drug trafficking ring.
Along with Len, two other defendants – Nguyen Chi Dung and Nguyen Duc Toan – had their jail terms reduced from ten to eight and six to four years, respectively.
On January 20, the Quang Ninh Province People’s Court sentenced 30 of the case's 89 defendants to death.
"This was Vietnam's largest ever trial in terms of defendants, the number of death sentences given out and the amount of heroin involved," presiding judge Ngo Duc was quoted by AFP as saying.
The provincial court also jailed 13 people for life, nine for 20 years, one for 18 years, nine for 15 years, and 17 others for between two and 13 years.
Ten others got between nine month suspended sentences and 14-year prison sentences for crimes like engaging in illegal business activities, forging documents and bribery.
After the first trial, 40 of the 89 defendants appealed their verdicts.
According to the indictment, the defendants moved a total of 1.47 tons of heroin, 35 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, and 323,400 methamphetamine tablets from Laos to Vietnam and from Vietnam to China.
Prosecutors said they belonged to four rings which were busted following the April 2012 arrest of Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc, 54, who had trafficked illegal narcotics from Laos to Vietnam since 2006.
The first ring operated in Laos and was led by Sa Van Cau, 40, who remains at large, according to investigators.
The second was led by Nguyen Hung Dung, 35, and Song A Lau, 37; police say the pair acted as national distributors of the narcotics.
Nguyen Thanh Tuan and his wife, Nguyen Thanh Hien, both 32, led the third ring, which smuggled drugs from Vietnam to China.
The fourth ring, led by Nguyen Thi Hoan and Nguyen Thi Doan, also moved drugs to China.
All of the ring leaders, plus Ngoc, received the death penalty.
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.
The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.
Vietnam officially switched from the firing squad to lethal injection in November 2011. But it was not until last August that the country executed its first prisoner with the new method due to a shortage of the fatal serum required to carry it out.

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