Vietnam hands death sentence to Thai drug mule

TN News

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A 31-year-old Thai woman was sentenced to death Tuesday after a Ho Chi Minh City court found her guilty of smuggling nearly two kilograms of cocaine from Brazil to Vietnam last October.

This is the second death sentence that the HCMC People's Court has handed down to a foreigner in as many days.

Chaimongkol Suracha, 31, told the court that she got to know an African man called Fosta online. Fosta had introduced her to a man named Mieara who he said would help her land a job, news website VnExpress reported Tuesday.

On August 12, 2012, Mieara took Chaimongkol  to Vietnam to meet the manager of an automobile export company, but then said the company had a job vacancy in Brazil, so they took a flight to the South American nation that night.

When they arrived in Brazil, Mieara gave Chaimongkol US$1,000 for expenses and left.

Chaimongkol  said she was watched by another African man, and later she was taken shopping to buy a suitcase and two albums by two other Africans.

They then asked her to return to Vietnam to meet the manager of the car company and get the job Mieara had earlier promised.

Chaimongkol  was arrested October 1, 2012 at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport when she arrived from Brazil, after customs officers discovered cocaine in the two photo albums. The flight had transited through Dubai.

Chaimongkol told investigators and the judge that she did not know that the albums contained drugs.

But investigators dismissed her claims, saying evidence showed that she had willingly been a mule for a transnational drug trafficking ring for profit, the Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper reported. The report did not elaborate on the evidence presented by investigators.

The VnExpress report, meanwhile, said the panel of judges said the fact that Vietnamese customs officials had found the drug in her luggage, that she had moved from Thailand to several countries, spent Mieara's money, and stayed with the African people, combined with other evidence, was sufficient to pronounce her guilty.  

On Monday, the HCMC court also sentenced Ejiogu Benjamin Ikechukwu, 31, a Nigerian man, to death for smuggling more than 3.4 kilograms of methamphetamine from Qatar into Vietnam in June last year.

He said he was transporting 16 metal pistons and a laptop adapter for a man named Onyekachi, but did not know that they contained drugs. Customs officers at Tan Son Nhat airport found the pistons and adapter contained methamphetamine.

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Onyekachi, who remains at large, told him that someone would find him to receive the consignment, he said.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. According to its Penal Code, those convicted of smuggling 100 grams of heroin or cocaine or 300 grams of other drugs can be sentenced to death.

Last October, Vietnam sentenced a 61-year-old Filipina to death after she was caught smuggling five kilograms (11 pounds) of methamphetamine into the country.

In June 2012, a Ho Chi Minh City court handed down the death penalty to a 23-year-old female student from Thailand for trafficking three kilograms of methamphetamine from Benin to Vietnam.

Death penalty statistics are not released in Vietnam, but the punishment is handed down most frequently to those convicted of murder or drug-trafficking.

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