Vietnam busts largest-ever drug cartel

By Quoc Thang   June 1, 2017 | 09:06 pm GMT+7

Police raided 13 drug-producing labs across Vietnam, seizing over $8.8 million worth of narcotics.

Ho Chi Minh City police have arrested more than 20 people believed to be members of what they call the country's largest drug ring operating across the country.

The ring, headed by Van Kinh Duong, 36, has allegedly produced nearly 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of ecstasy pills and other synthetic drugs.

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Duong, the alleged ringleader. Photo courtesy of the police.

Duong was sentenced to six years in prison for illegal possession of drugs in 2008, according to Ho Chi Minh City's Cong An newspaper. However, he managed to escape from prison and set up his own drug production ring using the fake name Tran Ngoc Hieu.

His network included many labs in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Nha Trang and some southern provinces, according to the police. The labs were often set up in deserted areas and they would be relocated after every batch of narcotics produced. To avoid police detection, Duong would manage and monitor these labs through a social network and a camera system instead of physically visiting them.

The dozens of people working in the labs are all Duong's relatives.

The pills would often be trafficked from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi in suitcases of 50 kilograms (around 250,000 pills) each, and sold for VND180,000-200,000 ($8-9) per pill.

Duong's network has churned out nearly 300 kilograms of synthetic drugs and sold about 200,000 ecstasy pills between early 2016 until it was busted.

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Ecstasy pills seized during the raids. Photo courtesy of the police

Police arrested Duong just as he landed at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat airport on April 6. At the same time, more than 200 police officers raided 13 of his ring's establishments across the country and arrested many members of the ring.

More than 500,000 ecstasy pills and 120 kilograms of narcotic powders with an estimated value of VND200 billion ($8.8 million) were seized during the raids. Police also seized VND10 billion $(440,000), 7 cars including a VND25 billion supercar and some real estate related to the crime.

The drug seizure was the largest ever in Vietnam, Phan Anh Minh, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City police department, said.

Further investigations are underway.

Vietnam has some of the world’s toughest drug laws. Those convicted of possessing or 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.