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Cablegate: Recent Major Drug Cases in Vietnam

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000663

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV; INL/AAE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR KCRM PINS VM CNARC
SUBJECT: RECENT MAJOR DRUG CASES IN VIETNAM

REF: 02 Hanoi 618

1. (U) Summary. A recent large drug trial in Ho Chi Minh
City concluded on February 26, with the People's Court
handing down four death sentences, four life imprisonments,
and other lengthy prison terms. 140 other suspects are to
be tried at a later date. Other cases in Son La, Da Nang,
and Nghe An have resulted in relatively large seizures and
numbers of arrests, indicating a possible increase in the
amount and effectiveness of enforcement activity. End
summary.

-----------------------------------
HCMC CASE: DEATH AND LIFE SENTENCES
-----------------------------------

2. (U) According to press reports, police in Tien Giang
province in coordination with the Ministry of Public
Security (MPS) arrested Ngo Xuan Phuong, Ngo Duc Minh, and
nine other members of a drug trafficking ring in May 2002
(reftel). On February 23, the eleven stood trial in Ho Chi
Minh City. The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court handed down
four death sentences, four life sentences, and three other
long prison sentences three days later, convicting them of
trafficking about 39 kilograms of heroin, 50 kilograms of
cannabis, 15 kilograms of synthetic drugs and 6,000 ATS
tablets over the past ten years between Laos and Cambodia
and on to Vietnam and Japan for consumption. They also
bought Ecstasy tablets in the Netherlands to sell in Ho Chi
Minh City, according to press reporting. Colonel Bui Xuan
Hieu, Standing Office for Drug Control of Vietnam, called
the case "very serious" due to the trans-national activities
of the syndicate.

---------------------------------
DRUG BUSTS IN DA NANG AND NGHE AN
---------------------------------

3. (U) Separately, in Nghe An, a province that sits
astride a trade route to Laos, the police arrested 10
suspects in February 2004 and seized approximately seven
kilograms of heroin. According to the traffickers' initial
confessions, the offenders had already trafficked about 87.5
kilograms of heroin, press reports stated. (Note: the GVN
considers this the largest drug case in Nghe An's history.
end note)

4. (U) On February 27, the "biggest case ever recorded in
Da Nang" took place, according to police sources quoted in
VNExpress. Searching the home of offender Nguyen Quoc Viet,
the police seized six kilograms of heroin. The cases in Da
Nang and Nghe An are still under investigation, according to
press reports.

--------------------------------------------- ----
NORTHWEST PROVINCE OF SON LA GETS SOME ACTION TOO
--------------------------------------------- ----

5. (U) In the first two months of 2004, Son La provincial
police have arrested 215 suspects in 85 separate narcotics
cases, and seized 3.7 kilograms of heroin, 6.6 kilograms of
opium and a large quantity of ATS. (Note: The large number
of individual cases and the relatively small amounts of
heroin and opium indicates that many of these arrests were
of users and low-level dealers rather than large
traffickers. UNODC has identified Son La as a province with
a severe drug use problem, especially in the ethnic Hmong
community. End note.)

------------
MORE TO COME
------------

6. (U) According to VnExpress, gang leader Ngo Duc Minh
escaped the death penalty through "honest confession" of
having trafficked 24 kilograms of heroin and 50 kilograms of
cannabis. (Note: according to the Vietnamese Penal Code,
possession of 100 grams of heroin is punishable by death.
End Note.) Police expect Minh's confession to lead to
further arrests and seizures.

7. (SBU) Ho Chi Minh City's cases in the first two months
of the year demonstrated an increase in the number of
arrests and the quantity of drugs seized over the same
period last year. Doris Buddenberg, UNODC representative in
Hanoi, told poloff that the recent uptick in activity is a
result of a small increase in drug smuggling and a larger
increase in enforcement actions, and noted that street-level
heroin was less available in Hanoi recently. Le Van Truong,
Section Chief of MPS' Counternarcotics Department,
separately attributed the increase to "improved
investigation and combat techniques" in MPS and increased
coordination among law enforcement agencies following a
directive in 2003 from Prime Minister Phan Van Khai ordering
greater interagency cooperation on counternarcotics.
PORTER

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