Vietnam steps up fight against air drug smuggling after latest bust

HANOI, March 21 (Xinhua): Vietnam's Ministry of Finance has set up a working group to combat airborne smuggling after four flight attendants were arrested last week over drug trafficking from France to Vietnam, local media reported on Tuesday.

Minister of Finance Ho Duc Phoc has signed a decision on forming a group consisting of eight members from relevant ministries and agencies including public security, customs authorities, and market management, led by the head of the national steering committee for combating against smuggling, commercial frauds and counterfeit goods.

The working group is assigned to oversee air smuggling, collecting information on illegal transportation of goods through international airports and coordinating forces of action to handle special cases.

Airborne smuggling has been in the spotlight after a group of flight attendants from flag carrier Vietnam Airlines were arrested on Thursday at the country's busiest Tan Son Nhat International Airport, with over 11.4 kg of drugs being concealed in their luggage on a flight from France to Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City police said Vietnam Airlines had suspended the aircrew for further investigation.

There have been eight cases of drug trafficking with an estimated 15 kg of drugs seized at the Tan Son Nhat airport so far this year, according to local customs authorities.

In January, the Hanoi police seized 98 kg of drugs, including MDMA and ketamine, hidden in chocolate packages sent from Germany to Vietnam.

Vietnam recorded 303 cases involving trafficking more than 1 ton of narcotics of various kinds last year, said the General Department of Vietnam Customs.

Those convicted of smuggling over 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kg of methamphetamine are punishable by death penalty in Vietnam. Other offences including the production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of illegal narcotics is also punishable by death penalty. - Xinhua

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