Former Vietnamese flight attendant pays $53,000 to avoid jail term over illegal cash transport

By Hai Duyen   March 27, 2017 | 11:45 pm PT
A Ho Chi Minh City court has accepted the defendant's request to pay a fine instead of spending five years in jail.

A Vietnamese woman has asked a court to allow her to pay a VND1.2 billion ($53,000) fine in her battle to stay out of jail after being charged with not declaring she was carrying a large amount of foreign currency into the country. 

The People's Court in Ho Chi Minh City held a hearing on Monday against Ha Thi Thuy Duong, 34, a former flight attendant of South Korea's Asiana Airlines who was indicted for illegally transporting $90,000 into Vietnam in November 2015.

Vietnam's customs regulations require travelers to declare anything in excess of $5,000 when they arrive or leave the country.

Prosecutors had proposed a jail sentence of 4-5 years for Duong, but she has asked the court for permission to pay a $52,000 fine in lieu of prison time, taking advantage of new provisions to the Penal Code introduced in 2015. 

Duong started working for Asiana Airlines in 2008. On November 3, 2015, she and her flight crew from South Korea arrived in Vietnam, where customs officers detected $90,000 in her luggage.

She claimed that the money had been planted in her bag without her knowledge by her South Korean boyfriend at a hotel. The man later sent her a message to say he had left her a gift in her suitcase. Duong said she didn't have time to check the gift.

Vietnamese investigators have been working with South Korean police to verify the information about the man but have been unable to locate him.

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