Vietnamese community raided in Ukraine on suspicion of criminal gang ties

By Anh Ngoc   May 25, 2016 | 08:29 pm GMT+7

A Vietnamese residential area in Ukraine was raided on May 23 by special forces intent on breaking up an immigration racket, according to the website of the General Prosecutor's office of Ukraine (GPU).

The GPU yesterday explained that the reason for raiding the Vietnamese Lang Sen (Lotus) village was to arrest a Southeast Asian criminal gang.

The agency said it was a "special campaign to eliminate an organized criminal gang from Southeast Asia that was operating in Odessa.”

"These criminals are involved in illegal trade deals, counterfeit money and papers, illegal currency exchange, and smuggling weapons, drugs and people," said the statement.

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Cash and weapons seized in Lang Sen. Photo by GPU

The GPU also accused some Vietnamese people in Lang Sen of resisting the task force. It said the force used guns to suppress the violent response from locals. Minor clashes broke out between the Vietnamese residents and the task force during the raid, and weapons and cash were seized.

Earlier, around 20 people, believed to be a Ukrainian task force, searched the apartment of a Vietnamese national in Lang Sen at around 2:00 p.m. on May 23, according to Ukrainian media.

They are said to have smashed through the door and wrecked the apartment before breaking into to metal safes to seize money, jewelry and other assets without a search warrant or explanation.

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Destroyed safe at a Vietnamese's apartment in Lang Sen. Photo by Vietnamese in Ukraine

People were forced to lie on the ground and any who resisted were restrained, but no one was arrested.

Angered by their actions, a group of Vietnamese people used cars to block the road as the task force was leaving the scene. The armed forces opened fire while the Vietnamese crowd responded with stones, bricks and bottles.

Le Thai Ky, a Vietnamese citizen living in Odessa, said the force only confiscated regular household goods, including fake $100 bills that are burnt during religious ceremonies.

Yesterday morning, about 200 Vietnamese people in Odessa staged a demonstration in front of the provincial procuracy building. They unfurled large banners saying: "The procuracy, please save us" and "President, please help us." Many Ukrainian journalists were at the scene.

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Around 200 Vietnamese in Odessa protested in front of the GPU on May 24. Photo by Le Thai Ky

Deputy Director of the Provincial Procuracy Arthur Dobroserdov has spoken with a representative of the Vietnamese community. He said the authorities that carried out the raid “had handed over search warrants and records for each house searched.”

Dobroserdov said that lawyers representing the Vietnamese community should collate that paperwork and submit it for the procuracy to investigate.

On Tuesday, Vietnam's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vu Hong Nam summoned Ukrainian Ambassador Aleksei Shovkoplias to his office in Hanoi to discuss the issue.

Nam said the raid was a serious incident and asked the Ukrainian authorities to clarify the cause and objective of the incident, and return the belongings that were seized to their rightful owners.

The deputy minister also asked Ukraine to tighten security measures to ensure the safety of Vietnamese people living in Lang Sen.

In January, a Ukrainian task force also conducted a surprise raid on dozens of apartments in Lang Sen, smashing doors and arresting a number of Vietnamese people. Ukraine's security services said the raids were part of an investigation into illegal immigration.

Lang Sen is a residential area with about 300 apartments, which were mostly paid for by Vietnamese people living in Odessa.