Australian to spend life in Vietnamese prison for drug dealing

By Ky Hoa   November 8, 2018 | 05:13 pm PT
Australian to spend life in Vietnamese prison for drug dealing
The defendants stand in court in Ho Chi Minh City Thursday. Photo by VnExpress/Ky Hoa
A Vietnamese Australian drug trafficking ring member will spend the rest of his life in prison, a court ruled Thursday.

The ring trafficked over 3.1 kilograms (6.8 pounds) of heroin from Vietnam to Australia.

A HCMC court found Australian national Luu So Qui, 52, guilty of "illegal trading of narcotic substances" and "trading of precursors for illegal manufacturing of narcotic substances" and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Three of Qui's Vietnamese accomplices, including ringleader Hoang Cat Trieu, also received life sentences for "illegal trading of narcotic substances" while another accomplice was sentenced to 30 years in prison for "trading of precursors for illegal manufacturing of narcotic substances."

The five defendants escaped the death sentence recommended by prosecutors because most of the drugs had been seized by Australian and Vietnamese police prior to being released into society, limiting the damage caused by their crimes, the court said.

According to the indictment, Qui became acquainted with a Vietnamese Australian woman named Hoa while living in Ho Chi Minh City. Following Hoa's instructions, Qui bought medicines and distilled them into drug precursors and attempted to traffic them to Australia for AUD7,000 ($5,100).

Police arrested Qui in May 2017 while he was delivering the drug precursors to Hoa. Raiding his house in Tan Phu District, police seized a plastic box containing a thick yellow liquid, 10 white pills, three 30-liter plastic cans containing methanol, many types of medicines and tools used for producing drug precursors.

Qui is said to have asked to join Trieu's drug trafficking ring in 2016 after his restaurant business suffered losses. During one of his trips to Australia, Qui met a potential buyer named Trung and suggested that the ring traffic drugs to Australia.

In November 2016, the ring attempted to traffic 1.4 kilograms of heroin to Australia for Trung by hiding the drugs inside the battery trays of 20 LED lights and sending the package to Australia via post. Australian police however discovered the drugs and informed Vietnamese authorities of the incident.

Following Qui's request, Trieu's ring attempted to traffic another 0.35 kilogram of heroin to Australia in May 2017 but failed.

Vietnamese authorities also determined that Trieu was the owner of 1.4 kilograms of heroin that were discovered inside carton boxes destined for Australia in March 2016. In total, between 2015 and their arrests, Trieu and his accomplices attempted to smuggle over 3.1 kilograms of heroin and drug precursors to Australia.

At the trial on Thursday, Trieu denied having committed the crimes, but the court dismissed the claim saying there was sufficient evidence to conclude that he was the ringleader.

Hoa has not been tracked down.

Vietnam has some of the world’s toughest drug laws. Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or cocaine or more than 2.5 kg of methamphetamine could 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.

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