Drug cartels don garb of normal business in HCMC

By Quoc Thang   April 21, 2019 | 03:50 am PT
Foreign drug cartels functioning under the guise of normal businesses have turned HCMC into a trafficking hub.

On April 19, police seized 500 kilograms of meth stashed in loudspeakers and arrested two Taiwanese men and a Vietnamese man in HCMC.

They suspect that the seizure is connected to a previous case a month earlier, when 300 kilograms of meth headed for Taiwan were seized.

Ten days later, 895 packs of heroin were found in a truck on the city's outskirts. In that instance, police arrested two Taiwanese men and a Vietnamese driver.

The drugs seized in all the cases came from the infamous Golden Triangle (where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar intersect), one of the largest drug producing areas in Asia. They made their way into HCMC through Laos, Thailand and Cambodia.

From HCMC, the drugs are transported to other countries by sea, police say.

The drug gangs are led by foreigners from Taiwan, China and Malaysia, and they control the business in HCMC from overseas. Before setting up their operations, they send people to look around and rent warehouses for a short time (1-3 months). The warehouses are leased under the cover of a normal business. They even hire Vietnamese workers to avoid arousing suspicion.

Thef meth seized by Ho Chi Minh City police on Friday. Photo courtesy of the citys police.

Thef meth seized by Ho Chi Minh City police on Friday. Photo courtesy of the city's police.

In the case of 300 kilograms of meth seized in March, the ringleader opened a clothing company in a deserted area of Binh Tan District in HCMC in the name of his mistress. They used it as a place to store the drugs before transporting it overseas. They hid the drugs in bags filled with plastic beads to make it through the Vietnam Customs.

The Taiwanese mastermind involved in the seizure of 895 packs of heroin had his affiliates rent a warehouse in Binh Duong Province, 30 kilometers away from HCMC. In this operation, after the drugs arrived from the Golden Triangle, they were moved to another warehouse in city used by a company selling glue. The heroin was packed in normal carton boxes and shipped in containers to Taiwan.

"Drug cartels from overseas choose Ho Chi Minh City as their trafficking hub because it has many ports that can connect quickly to other countries. Also, our customs do not do a good job in managing the checkpoints. I think that the next cases will be bigger than the previous ones," said Phan Anh Minh, deputy police chief of Ho Chi Minh City.

HCMC police also warned people to be careful with the warehouses, storages and logistics enterprises in their area. They should inform the police as soon as they see anything abnormal, the police said.

The loudspeakers where meth are stashed. Photo courtesy of the citys police.

The loudspeakers where meth are stashed. Photo courtesy of the city's police.

To Lam, the Minister of Public Security, noted that all the big drug cases busted recently involved foreign investment. They opened companies in HCMC, but did not produce much, because it was just a front.

Lam also said that as the economic hub of the country, import-export activity occurs at a fast pace in HCMC by all modes of transportation - air, by land or by sea. This makes it an ideal place for foreign drug criminals to take advantage of, especially the sea routes that are not very strictly administered.

Vietnam has become a hub both for drug use and drug  trafficking, as evidenced by the increasing frequency and volume of narcotic hauls.

Three big busts were made in March alone. On March 20, police seized 300 kilos of meth that were on the way to Taiwan. Police said the ring, led by a Chinese man, operated nationwide and was linked to two seizures of around 300 kilos each in central Vietnam last October and this February. They also discovered that the gang transported meth to the Philippines.

On March 22, Vietnamese customs and the Philippine police seized 270 kilos of meth the gang had transported to the Philippines by sea.

Five days later, police arrested two Taiwanese men and a Vietnamese driver who were transporting more than 300 kilos of heroin on the city’s outskirts.

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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