Vietnam court upholds death sentence against Vietnamese-Australian drug dealer

By Hai Duyen   August 24, 2016 | 02:23 am PT
The Australian citizen was convicted of trafficking 3.5kg (7.7lbs) of heroin in 2014.

An appeals court in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday upheld the death sentence handed down two years ago to an Australian of Vietnamese origin for illegally possessing and transporting heroin.

Pham Trung Dung, 39, was arrested in 2013 while attempting to leave Vietnam for Australia carrying a large quantity of heroin.

The judges on Wednesday refused to commute Dung's sentence, saying his actions were harmful to society and that his sentence should stand based on the large weight of heroin he was carrying.


Vietnamese-Australian drug dealer Pham Trung Dung. Photo by VnExpress/P.T.

Dung and his partner, Phan  Thi To Quyen, have lived in Australia since 2000. They returned to Vietnam for a visit in 2013.

The investigation found that an unidentified man offered Dung US$40,000 to transport two suitcases containing four kilograms of heroin to Australia, and Dung accepted, fully aware that he would be carrying illegal goods.

Dung was arrested by customs officials in May 2013 as he and Quyen were going to board a flight at Tan Son Nhat International Airport with the four kilograms of heroin found in his luggage.

According to the police, Quyen was cleared of any criminal charges because there was no evidence of her involvement in the case.

A Ho Chi Minh City court sentenced Dung to death in April 2014. Months later, it was established that he was in fact carrying 3.5 kilograms of heroin, but that still constitutes the death sentence under Vietnamese law.

Vietnam has some of the world’s toughest drug laws. The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is punishable by death.

Over the past months, Vietnam has thrown the book at Australian drug mules.

In late June, a Ho Chi Minh City court sentenced 73-year-old Nguyen Thi Huong, a Vietnamese-Australian woman, to death after finding her guilty of trafficking 3.5 pounds of heroin when checking in for an Australia-bound flight in December 2014.

In late May, another court in Ho Chi Minh City handed down the life sentence to Nathan Andrew James, a 34-year-old Australian man, for attempting to smuggle around 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of heroin hidden in his luggage to Australia in October 2013,

In late July, police and customs officers at Tan Son Nhat airport arrested another Vietnamese-Australian woman for attempting to smuggle around five kilograms (11 pounds) of heroin to Australia.

Related news:

> Vietnam busts 2,000 drug-related crimes in just a month

> Drug trafficking and commercial fraud rife at Vietnam – Laos border

> Drug crime escalates at Vietnam – China border

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