Two Ho Chi Minh City customs officials and their two accomplices were detained Friday for their role in the attempted smuggling of 24 containers since December.
Ten of the containers, sent from China to the Vietnam International Container Terminal (VICT) port in Ho Chi Minh City, were seized at the end of December prompting one police officer to call it “the boldest smuggling attempt we've ever busted."
Four months later, police seized 14 more.
Customs officials Bui Anh Tuan, 37, and Nguyen Phuoc Tuong, 45, were reassigned away from VICT in January after police found they had allowed the first 10 containers to pass without inspection.
Tuan and Tuong passed on their official duties to Ta Quang Trinh, 38, a data transmission technician, and Chau Thanh Nhan, 55, a freelance deliveryman who came to fetch the containers.
Nhan gave Trinh falsified customs forms for the containers, and Trinh did not check them.
Trinh has since told police he was merely following orders issued by Tuong.
Police say, Tuong had previously colluded with several importers to help them falsify invoices.
His scheme was discovered after investigation found that only 15 packages in the ten containers were opened--customs rules require that at least 5 percent of a container (52 packages in this case) be checked before it is cleared.
The four are being investigated for smuggling and gross negligence.
In March, police also arrested Lam Luong Quang, the owner of a private company in Ho Chi Minh City.
Quang allegedly masterminded the scheme and sent Nhan to pick up the goods.
Police also issued arrest warrants for Ho Sam Dung, 37, and Tran Thi Thu Sang, 25, the directors of two companies listed as importing the containers. Both have failed to respond to several summonses.
Their companies successfully falsified 58 other customs forms while pushing shipments through the port in the month or so before they were busted.
City police and market managers flagged the first ten containers following a tip-off--seizing them right outside VICT Port on the night of December 30.
More than 6.5 million product units were not registered in the invoice, including alcohol, cosmetics and chemicals, some a number of products banned from importing such as used computer monitors and electronic firecrackers.
The shipment was estimated to be worth more than VND37 billion, four times more than the value stated on the falsified customs forms.
Commenting on its boldness, one city officer remarked incredulously: “They dared to send ten containers of contraband through customs at one time.”