HCMC becoming drug transit hub: top cop

By Vu Doan, Quoc Thang, Pham Duy   March 29, 2019 | 05:00 pm PT
HCMC becoming drug transit hub: top cop
Ho Chi Minh City police seize 300 kilos of heroin on the city's outskirts on March 27, 2019. Photo courtesy of HCMC police
HCMC is growing into a transit point for drugs thanks to its logistics infrastructure, a top city police officer has said.

"I used to talk about the risk of Vietnam becoming a drug transit hub, and it looks like it has finally happened, in Ho Chi Minh City," Major General Phan Anh Minh, deputy director of the HCMC Police, said at a meeting Thursday.

He was referencing three drug seizures in the last two weeks in Vietnam’s biggest city.

In all cases the drugs originated from the Golden Triangle, and in two of those cases they were on the way from HCMC to Taiwan and the Philippines.

On March 20 a raid by hundreds of police officers and border guards netted a pickup truck with around 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of meth.

It was the largest drug haul ever in HCMC, and the drugs were on the way to Taiwan. Police have detained seven suspects, including the Chinese gang leader Wu Heshan, 57.

The police said the ring operated nationwide and was linked to two seizures of around 300 kilos each in central Vietnam last October and February.

As they expanded the investigation, the police discovered that Wu’s gang transported meth to the Philippines.

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

On Wednesday the city police arrested two Taiwanese men and a Vietnamese driver who were transporting more than 300 kilos of heroin in a truck in Hoc Mon District on the outskirts.

The police found the drug was produced in Myanmar, and they are looking for another Taiwanese man who managed to escape.

Investigators said this gang, led by Taiwanese Chen Wei, 31, had no ties to Wu’s gang, but the two took drugs from the same source in the Golden Triangle.

They also found that more than a month ago Chen’s gang successfully hid heroin in tea bags and sent it to Taiwan.

Minh said HCMC has become a drug transit hub thanks to its logistics infrastructure.

Road, marine and air transport services in the city are "well connected," while its transport infrastructure is "more developed and convenient" than in northern cities and provinces.

"Hanoi does not have any seaports while the port service in HCMC is better than in Hai Phong," he said, referring to the north's biggest port city.

To Lam, Minister of Public Security, said at a meeting Friday that the latest bust of 300 kilos of heroin is just the tip of the iceberg, as HCMC has a lot of conditions to facilitate drug operations.

"It’s an economic center with convenient air, road and maritime transport, and there’re a very large number of addicts," Lam said. Ho Chi Minh City has some 22,000 registered drug addicts, accounting for around 10 percent of the national number.

Vietnam has become a key trafficking hub for narcotics around the Golden Triangle, an intersection of China, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar and the world's second-largest drug producing region.

The country also has some of the world’s toughest drug laws. Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face death.

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