HCM CITY – More and more drug traffickers have turned to aviation to transport drugs in response to tighter security measures of local customs and police, officials said.
Phạm Quốc Hùng, Deputy Director of HCM City’s Customs Department, told the Hải Quan (Customs) newspaper that transporting drugs as airfreight packages and by express delivery has increased from the beginning of the year as smugglers seek to circumvent customs inspections.
In the first nine months of the year, HCM City customs uncovered 14 cases of drug smuggling with a total of 28kg of methamphetamines, marijuana, and types of cocaine.
Customs officers at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport on September 19 detected three packages sent from the US to northern Hải Phòng City, which raised suspicions of contraband content when screened.
They checked and found that the three packages contained 7.3kg of marijuana flowers packed carefully in vacuum nylon bags and hidden in a used box of raisins. They also discovered many packages of drugs hidden in clothes and personal belongings.
Hùng said smugglers also put drugs into packages which used to contain products, such as instant coffee, sesame or milk powder, dried jackfruit and even cosmetics.
According to Huỳnh Nam, head of the city’s drug control team, traffickers always change the way they hide heroin, for example by shifting to express delivery services.
Nam said not all customs officials have the required experience and capability to find and prevent drug trafficking.
Customs officers have also heightened their vigilance of export goods.
Recently, customs officers checked a package of gifts including some clothes and shoes sent by a person from southern Bình Dương Province to Australia and found suspicious signs on the side of the carton. Cutting all four sides of the carton, the customs officer discovered four packs of heroin, weighing over 900grams flattened into the sides.
Nguyễn Văn Ánh, deputy director of the Express Delivery Customs Sub-Department, said that every day the department receives more than 3,000 gift packages, 2,600 of which are import goods.
Ánh said that customs officials constantly update themselves on new methods traffickers use to conceal and smuggle drugs.
The HCM City Customs Department warned that after a lull of two years, drug traffickers have resumed efforts to seduce Vietnamese women into serving as mules to transport drugs. The head of the drug control team of HCM City Customs, Huỳnh Nam, said in August that a female teacher from Bình Thuận Province was arrested for transporting drugs.
The customs officers detained the woman immediately after she arrived on a flight from Brazil to HCM City. According to her initial claim to customs, she was acquainted with a Nigerian man through a social network. In late July, the Nigerian man sent her some money to buy tickets to visit Brazil.
After that he asked her to bring a gift to his relative in HCM City. The woman was sure the gift package contained CDs and some clothes and put it into her luggage. At Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport, the customs officers seized the gift package after discovering cocaine hidden inside.
In the last five years, the airport’s Customs Sub-Department had detected and arrested 52 suspects (including 32 women, 19 of whom are Vietnamese nationals and 13 foreigners) on charges of illegal transport of drugs.
Most of the offenders were seduced and deceived by various tricks to transport drugs for African drug rings. “We are very concerned about this issue and determined to tighten the management,” Hùng said.