Vietnamese authorities say 65 people charged in France drug smuggling case

The investigation began last month when drugs were found inside toothpaste tubes carried by four flight attendants.
By RFA Vietnamese
Vietnamese authorities say 65 people charged in France drug smuggling case Toothpaste tubes filled with drugs were seized from Vietnam Airlines flight attendants at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City on March 16, 2023.
Credit: State media/Hải quan newspaper

Police in Ho Chi Minh City have prosecuted 65 people in a drug smuggling investigation that began last month when customs officers discovered MDMA, ketamine and cocaine hidden inside 153 toothpaste tubes in the baggage of Vietnam Airlines crew members.

Ho Chi Minh City police’s Investigation Agency said on Tuesday that they have seized a total of nearly 50 kilograms of drugs in an expanded investigation that found other instances of drug smuggling. 

Four flight attendants arriving on an international flight from Paris were arrested on March 16. The crew members told authorities that someone in France paid them more than 10 million dong, or about U.S.$425, to help transport “some goods” to Vietnam.

The flight attendants were carrying 112 toothpaste tubes containing 8.4 kilograms (18.5 lbs.) of gray tablets and 42 toothpaste tubes containing 3 kilograms (6.7 lbs.) of white powder. They said they were unaware of the narcotics and didn’t know the identity of the person who asked them to transport the tubes. 

No drugs were found during searches of their homes, and they were released due to lack of evidence.

The agency said on Tuesday that the crew members were merely “being used” to carry the drugs into Ho Chi Minh City’s airport.

Authorities have discovered six other cases in which a Vietnamese resident of France paid Vietnamese people studying or living in France to bring drugs hidden in toothpaste tubes and dietary supplement boxes into Vietnam through Hanoi’s airport. 

Upon arrival, the drugs were shipped to a recipient in the southern province of Dong Nai and then divided into pieces to be delivered to addresses in Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong province. From there, the drugs were divided further and distributed to other cities and provinces, authorities said.

Authorities confirmed that the four flight attendants were not involved in those activities.

A Vietnam Airlines representative said last month that the flight attendants were all fairly young and only have about one year of work experience with the airline. He said they may have believed that they were helping friends transport legitimate goods to Vietnam.

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Matt Reed.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.