Vietnamese and Lao police on Sunday arrested six foreigners who allegedly attempted to smuggle around 31 kilograms of heroin to Vietnam, four days after Ho Chi Minh City customs officers caught a 71-year-old Vietnamese-Australian woman with some 3 kilograms of heroin in hidden luggage compartments.
At 4 pm on Sunday, Vietnamese border guards of the north-central province of Ha Tinh and the police in Laos busted a major drug trafficking ring in that country’s Bolikhamsai Province, Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Vo Trong Hai, commander of the Ha Tinh Border Guard, told Thanh Nien. They confiscated some 31 kilograms of heroin, an undeclared amount of foreign currency and two cars, he said.
Of the six alleged drug dealers, one has American nationality, one is Burmese, two are Laotian, and the other two are Thai. They have been detained in Laos pending further investigations.
Drug squad officers from Vietnam and Laos said they had been watching the ring for six months before disrupting it. During questioning, the alleged drug mules said they had attempted to smuggle the heroin from the “Golden Triangle” to Vientiane -- Laos’s capital and from there to Vietnam and other countries.
The "Golden Triangle" region covering part of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar used to be one of the world's top producers of opium and heroin but has been overtaken by Afghanistan.
Also on Sunday, customs officers at the HCMC’s Tan Son Nhat airport said they would launch further probes into a 71-year-old Vietnamese-Australian woman who was caught on December 10 with around three kilograms of heroin totaling some VND10 billion (US$468,000).
The 71-year-old Vietnamese-Australian woman who was allegedly caught with nearly three kilograms of heroin at Tan Son Nhat airport on December 10. File photo
The woman, who has not been named, was checking in a Sydney-bound flight when customs officers grew suspicious of her luggage. They conducted further screenings and found the illegal drugs she allegedly stashed in 36 soap cases in her check-in luggage.
The Tan Son Nhat airport’s Customs Agency said over the past 10 days drug squad officers have busted three alleged drug smuggling cases, seizing some six kilograms of heroin. It is not clear how many people have been arrested accordingly.
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.
Although there are no official statistics, the death penalty is most frequently handed down in Vietnam to those convicted of drug offences and murder.
Vietnam switched to lethal injection from the firing squad in November 2011.
However, a European Union refusal to sell Vietnam the deadly injection led to a delay in executions until August 2013, when Vietnam began manufacturing its own lethal serum.
At that time, the number of death-row prisoners was reported to hover 600.