Vietnamese durians smuggled, soaked in dodgy preservative

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Thai men hold durians at a warehouse in Tien Giang Province, where the fruits are to be soaked in perservatives and smuggled to China and Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

Police in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang have fined a group of Thai and Vietnamese smugglers for soaking local durians in unsafe preservatives before illegally bringing them into China and Indonesia.

The chemicals and fruit have been confiscated.

The police said the eight Thai people and a Vietnamese dealer will be fined VND10-20 million (US$473-947) each for the undocumented export of the fruits to the China and Indonesia.

Thailand Commerce Company in Ho Chi Minh City collected the fruits at its warehouse in Tien Giang, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.

In one of Tuoi Tre's visits, more than 20 Vietnamese were working for two Thai men. The Thais chose which fruits were to be soaked in the strange preservative solution and the Vietnamese did the deed in a room at the far end of house.

The durians were than tagged with Chinese labels, put in Chinese-language boxes and loaded onto a truck.

The workers said each bucket (more than 40 liters) of dark yellow liquid could bathe 700 durians. The warehouse used around ten buckets a day and the solutions were mixed by the Thai bosses, according to Tuoi Tre.

A Thai man expressed anger and signaled the Tuoi Tre reporter to leave when the latter entered the room where the mixture was being made from unlabeled chemicals including some yellow powder, a yellow liquid, and a green liquid.

A Vietnamese worker said the mixture was said to keep the durians unspoiled for longer than normal, and to make them ripe all over.

Tien Giang police raided the warehouse on Friday. They said that the 8 Thais -- known only as Siriruang, Sursing, Aumsuepchue, Phaeyai, Phuangkan, Srikanmsuk, Kiadthawiphong, and Sutham --had been collecting Vietnamese goods illegally, meaning without proper documentation.

The eight entered Vietnam more than a month ago with tourist visas, investigators said . They brought the chemicals from China, police found.

Khong Minh Sang, the Vietnamese dealer who bought fruit from local gardens and provided them to the Thai smugglers said the durians were moved through Tan Thanh border gate in Lang Son Province to a company in China. He said the company had agreed to transfer payment to him and they worked without paper contracts.

Tran Thi Thu Thanh, deputy director of Thailand Commerce Company, said she managed the export to Indonesia and the company exported four containers, each of 7,200-15,300 kilograms.

Nguyen Van Hoa, vice director of the Southern Horticultural Research Institute based in Tien Giang, said his company would work with local authorities to identify the chemicals and their effects.

Tien Giang police in January deported Chinese man Chen Si Leng after he was caught collecting local durians illegally. T

he same happened to Zang Wen Bin and Gao Rong in April for collecting pineapples. Three other Chinese were fined in July for collecting squid illegally.

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