Six jailed for sneaking hitchhikers onto National Assembly flight to South Korea

By Hai Thu   May 21, 2021 | 01:32 am PT
Six jailed for sneaking hitchhikers onto National Assembly flight to South Korea
Six people involved in a hitchhiking incident to South Korea in 2018 stand before the Hanoi People's Court, May 20, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Danh Lam.
Six people were sentenced to jail Thursday for a 2018 incident where several Vietnamese illegally hitchhiked onto a private jet to South Korea with a former National Assembly chairwoman.

Le Thi Lieu, 35, was sentenced to five years in jail; Trinh Bang Dung, 53, was sentenced to three years in jail; Tran Phuc Hung, 33, and Tran Thi Tuyet were each sentenced to two years in jail for "organizing illegal immigration."

Ngo Xuan Hieu, 52, was sentenced to 20 months in jail, and Nguyen Thi Luong, 37, to 18 months for "brokering illegal immigration." Tran Phuc Hung, 33, was sentenced to 16 months and 11 days in jail, but due to his detainment period already equal to his sentence, he was set free after the trial. Le Thi Xuan, 43, got a suspended sentence.

Lieu, former director of a Hanoi-based company and determined to be the mastermind behind the incident, said she made contact with another Vietnamese living in Germany through social media in 2018, learning that several people wanted to travel to South Korea for work and that the man offered to get them visas for $10,000 each, according to Hanoi People's Court.

Lieu then contacted the man's uncle, Dung, to find customers for the service. Hieu, Xuan, Luong and Hung also took part in the process of finding prospective clients. They said they offered a service for $11,500 each so they could profit off the discrepancies.

In August 2018, the National Assembly's foreign affairs committee requested the Ministry of Planning and Investment organize a group of businesspeople to accompany then-National Assembly chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan to China and South Korea from Dec. 4 to 7 the same year. The invitation was applicable for businesspeople dealing with investment and commerce.

Requirements to join the group included visas, personal documents, business registration licenses and employment contracts, among others.

In September, Lieu used her connections to acquire several companies and put the names of her customers into their ranks. She also instructed customers to masquerade as businesspeople, then told them to fake reasons and separate from the group once in South Korea.

On Dec. 4, Lieu and four of her customers flew to South Korea with the National Assembly entourage. Two of them were busted by South Korean authorities at the end of 2019 and were deported, while one has managed to remain till now.

Using the same scheme, Hung and Tuyet also managed to sneak two people onto the flight. One of the people who successfully entered South Korea has yet to return to Vietnam.

Lieu was said to have illegally received over VND700 million ($30,429) throughout the ordeal, Hung was said to receive VND91 million, Tuyet over VND48 million, Dung VND210 million and Hieu VND31 million.

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