Vietnam upholds life sentence for Malaysian woman for drug smuggling

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The Supreme People's Court, the country's highest court, upheld a life sentence Monday for a Malaysian woman who was caught carrying more than 1.6 kilograms of methamphetamine at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City two years ago.

Parameswary Amutha G Letchumanan, 53, was found guilty of "illegally transporting drugs."

According to the indictment, in the evening of August 4, 2012, Letchumanan came to customs officers at the airport to receive her suitcase previously claimed as lost after the flight from South Africa to HCMC.

The officers scanned the suitcase and found two plastic bags containing crystal powder later identified as methamphetamine weighing 1,642 grams.

The woman was arrested afterwards.

She confessed to police she was invited to visit South Africa by a friend named Mali Rita in July 2012.

Rita asked her to bring a suitcase back to Malaysia for Rita, and promised to cover all travel costs and pay her an additional US$100.

On July 24, 2012, when Letchumanan arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, an unidentified man picked her up at the airport and took her to a hotel.

The man gave her the suitcase which she was supposed to hand over to Rita back in Malaysia.

But she did not have the chance to give it to Rita as she was arrested in Vietnam, from where she was to fly to Malaysia.

Letchumanan insisted she did not know about the drugs inside the suitcase.

On September 27, 2013, the HCMC People's Court sentenced her to life on charges of "illegally transporting drugs." She appealed the verdict.

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.

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