Vietnam probes local connection to giant heroin bust in Taiwan

TN News

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Some of the 600 heroin bricks that were discovered in an aircraft container on display at the Criminal Investigation Bureau building in Taipei Sunday / PHOTO: AFP

Vietnamese authorities are investigating a case in which 229 kilograms of heroin that on a cargo aircraft coming from Ho Chi Minh City was seized in Taiwan on November 17, an official told Thanh Nien.

According to the representative of the Center for Aviation Security at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport, local customs are cooperating with police and airport security forces in the investigation.

Initial information from the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam is that the China Airlines aircraft departed from Penang, Malaysia, and transited at HCMC's Tan Son Nhat airport, before heading to Taiwan's Taoyuan International Airport.

More goods were loaded onto the plane when it was transiting, they said.

An officer with Vietnam Customs' anti-smuggling division told Thanh Nien on the condition of anonymity that 12 empty stereo speakers in which the drugs were hidden had been loaded at Tan Son Nhat.

He said they were sent by a local business and the airport's customs completed procedures for the export, adding that customs should have checked the export's contents in accordance with laws.

According to Taiwanese media, the Criminal Investigation Bureau seized 600 packages of heroin from the speakers. The packages had been smeared with chocolate to avoid being detected by dogs.

The narcotics could have been sold for a total of US$300 million, the bureau was quoted as saying.

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Following the confiscation, the bureau's officers arrested seven people suspected of being involved in heroin smuggling operations last year and who have been being monitored since.

Among them was one suspect surnamed Wong, who had visited Vietnam and China several times, apparently as part of an illegal drug ring.

Wong, who worked for a cargo transportation company and was familiar with cargo transportation channels, and other suspects worked for Taiwanese suspects who reside in China, the bureau said.

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