Russian woman gets 18 years in jail for drug trafficking in Vietnam

By Phan Anh   November 23, 2018 | 11:28 pm PT
A HCMC court sentenced a Russian woman to 18 years in jail for smuggling drugs; she claimed she was set up.

Nikolaenko Galina, 26, wept and pleaded for mercy as she was sentenced Thursday, saying she was fooled into drug trafficking.

Thanh Nien newspaper reported that Galina was detained in January by HCMC police and customs department officials with about 688 grams of ecstasy in a box she was carrying.

Galina said a foreign man offered her VND1 million ($43) to take the box, delivered from Germany, from a postal office in HCMC’s District 2 and place it next to a trash can in front of an unnamed restaurant on the Nguyen Hue walking street. The man did not specify what was inside the box.

However, Galina could not get the box because the receiver’s name on it wasn’t hers. On January 17, she asked a Vietnamese interpreter to go with her and help her fill out the forms to receive the box. Once she’s signed to receive the box and affirm her responsibility for it, authorities caught her as she was walking towards her vehicle.

Galina said she’d met the foreign man in a restaurant in December last year, when she traveled to Vietnam as a tourist. She and him saw each other a few times afterwards, and kept in touch through an unnamed chat application.

She said she didn’t know much about the man, only identified as Nikolay, but she "really liked him," so she decided to help him when he asked her to. She acknowledged that she was suspicious that she couldn’t receive the box at first, and the fact that she had to place it next to a garbage can. Nikolay provided no answer when she asked him.

"I accept my responsibility for smuggling the drugs, but I was cheated and deceived," she said. She also claimed that she didn’t know the box contained drugs.

The prosecutors said that since Galina couldn’t prove that the man named Nikolay actually existed and police had found concrete evidence, they proposed that she be sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined VND20 million ($857).

However, in consideration of the fact that it was Galina’s first offense and she had no criminal background, as also limited knowledge of Vietnamese law, the court gave her 18 years and the fine brought down to VND10 million ($428).

"I’m still 26, unmarried and have no children. I regret my action very much. I hope the jury can reduce my sentence so I could reunite with my family," Galina beseeched the court in tears.

The court appointed two lawyers to represent Galina and a Russian-Vietnamese interpreter’s services were used during the court proceedings Thursday.

Vietnam is 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, with those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or cocaine or more than 2.5 kg of methamphetamine possibly facing the death penalty.

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