Vietnamese students targeted by African drug smuggling rings

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African drug smuggling rings are using Vietnamese students as traffickers instead of middle-aged women as they did earlier, a senior narcotics police officer said Thursday.

Colonel Le Thanh Liem, deputy chief of the Narcotics Police Department, said two female students have been arrested and another two summoned for questioning.

He said an investigation has been launched into an African-led ring that smuggled drugs from Africa to Vietnam.

On Wednesday, a 22-year-old student of the Hong Bang University in Ho Chi Minh City, Tran Ha Duy, gave herself up to the police after being informed that her 20-year-old sister, Tran Ha Tien, was nabbed at HCMC's Tan Son Nhat International Airport two days earlier for attempting to smuggle more than four kilograms of methamphetamine into the country.

Colonel Liem, deputy chief of Narcotics Police Department, said Duy has confessed to being a member of the gang.

Custom officers found a large bag of methamphetamine at the bottom of Tien's luggage as she disembarked from Qatar.

Initial investigations have found that she was involved in a trafficking ring that brought drugs from Tanzania in Africa to Vietnam via Qatar.

Shortly after Tien's arrest, the police also apprehended Huynh Ngoc Loi, 22, a suspected ring member, and seized 4 kilograms of methamphetamine from a suitcase in his house in HCMC.

Duy told the police she knew a man of African origin named Francis (no further information has been disclosed about him) since 2007, and they kept in touch.

In August 2010, Francis asked her to join his business by delivering clothes and shoes to foreign countries, and she accepted. She also introduced her sister, Tien, also a student of the Hong Bang University, to the business.

Duy said she had successfully delivered four batches one from Malaysia to Indonesia and others from Benin, a West African country, to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines via Vietnam between August 2010 and July 2011.

She was paid US$1,000 for each trip. She told the police she had not known that drugs were hidden in the suitcases during the first three trips.

When she realized she was transporting drugs in the final trip, Francis forced her to keep silent, she said.

Meanwhile, Tien told the police she realized drugs were hidden in the suitcase during her first overseas trip, but she ignored it as she needed the money for her study.

Two other female students were summoned for questioning after Tien confessed Duy had invited her friends to join the business as well.

Colonel Liem said the African criminals usually make friends with Vietnamese students online and ask them to join their ring by delivering clothes and shoes from foreign countries to Vietnam.

The import and export of methamphetamine via non-commercial means is prohibited under Vietnamese law.

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