Flight attendant case led to busting of largest drug ring ever in Vietnam: police

By Pham Du   January 19, 2024 | 07:51 pm PT
Flight attendant case led to busting of largest drug ring ever in Vietnam: police
Customs official found drugs hidden in toothpaste tubes carried in hand luggage of Vietnam Airlines flight attendants from Paris to HCMC in March 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Kien Tuong
After finding four Vietnam Airlines flight attendants carrying drugs from aboard last year, the police said they have dismantled "the largest drug trafficking ring in history" that involves around 500 suspects.

The gang first came on their radar on March 16 last year when customs officers at HCMC’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport noticed toothpaste tubes with unusual signs in the hand luggage of the four attendants arriving from France.

Police found eight kilograms of ecstasy and three kilograms of cocaine and ketamine hidden inside them.

The attendants admitted to carrying the tubes for VND10 million (US$407), and claimed not to know about the drugs inside.

They told the police they had agreed to transport the 60 kilograms of toothpaste tubes for a person in France who approached them through a colleague.

Speaking at a workshop on combating drug trafficking by air in Hanoi on Friday, Major General Mai Hoang, deputy director of the city police, said the biggest question then was whether those attendants "knew about the drugs inside."

After analyzing their antecedents, the police concluded that they often took advantage of their hand luggage to transport goods to Vietnam for money.

"Placing humanity first and adhering to the principle of not punishing innocent people, we decided to release the four flight attendants despite great pressure."

But the HCMC police established a special task force to continue the investigation.

Right on the first day it arrested 36 suspects and tracked down several ring leaders in Yen Thanh District in the central Nghe An Province.

They were identified as smuggling six drug shipments from abroad to Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport and later transporting them to HCMC and elsewhere for distribution.

The seventh shipment, and the first through HCMC, was carried by the four flight attendants.

After 10 months of investigation, the HCMC police dismantled 150 trafficking networks related to this group in various provinces.

They have launched investigations into 381 individuals, and seized 130 kg of drugs.

Some 3,000 banks accounts were involved in transactions worth VND22 trillion (US$896 million), they said.

Hoang said: "This is the largest drug trafficking ring in the history of our country. We expect to have around 500 accused in this case."

The successful outcome is due to the close cooperation between customs and police, he said.

The four flight attendants "greatly assisted" the police, he said, praising them for being "honest and professional."

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