Anti-smuggling during the pandemic

VCN - Testing for Covid-19 to ensure conditions for searching and seizing contraband, and driving across Vietnam transferring files to handle criminal cases are two of the many special things related to anti-smuggling work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Anti-smuggling during the pandemic
On September 14, 2021, the Anti-Smuggling Control Team in the North (Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department, General Department of Customs) chaired and coordinated with the Express Delivery Customs Branch (Hanoi Customs Department) to detect and seize infringing goods at a warehouse in Thach Loi village, Thanh Xuan commune, Soc Son, Hanoi.

Testing to catch contraband

In 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic continued to be complicated in the country and around the world. The smuggling of therapeutic drugs, medical equipment and supplies in service of prevention and control is heating up day by day.

Especially, it is difficult to travel so the situation of contraband goods in the form of express delivery and via air is extremely complicated. Director of the Express Delivery Customs Branch (Hanoi Customs Department) Le Dung said that the tricks of the suspects are to split goods into small packages, falsely declare the nature of goods to smuggle, causing difficulties in detection and capture.

It is a battle of wits with smugglers during the pandemic; many localities have implemented social distancing. The direct inspection and seizure of illegal shipments is also a challenge for the customs control force.

In early September 2021, when it was discovered that a large-scale drug smuggling ring for Covid-19 treatment was discovered from India to Ho Chi Minh City and then transferred to Hanoi, the Anti-Smuggling Control Team in the Northern region (Anti-smuggling and Investigation Department, General Department of Customs) planned to search and arrest. Customs News was given the opportunity to directly witness the search and arrest to update information and have pictures from the scene.

When all the preparations were almost completed, reporters are also ready to operate machinery and equipment, suddenly there are new requirements related to pandemic prevention and control. Because the search site is a gathering place, centralized inspection and supervision for goods in the form of postal and express delivery (in Thach Loi village, Thanh Xuan commune, Soc Son district, Hanoi) being sold by businesses. The industry implements "3 on-site", everyone must have a negative test result for SARS-CoV-2.

The working group of the Northern Anti-Smuggling Control Team informed reporters to urgently go to the National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion for testing.

“The situation of having to test for SARS-CoV-2 was unexpected, but we were not passive because the operational plans during the pandemic were actively built in advance,” said an official of the Anti-Smuggling Control Team of the Northern region.

After having a negative test result, on September 14, the Anti-Smuggling Control Team in the North presided over and coordinated with Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department, Hanoi Express Customs Branch, and the Police Department to Criminal investigation on corruption, economy, smuggling (C03, Ministry of Public Security) simultaneously checked 15 packages with signs of violation and discovered more than 60,000 pills for Covid-19 and cancer. During the later checks in this plan, the Customs force discovered tens of thousands of similar pills in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

“Due to the nature of the job, during the period when Hanoi implemented social distancing, the unit still had to arrange civil servants to closely follow the key areas, especially Noi Bai international airport area, because at this time, the situation of smuggling drugs and medical supplies by air is very common. During the time of isolation, the unit detected and handled many cases of smuggling at Noi Bai international airport. When performing the task, we also worried about disease problems, so the requirement is to implement 5K measures and be ready and proactive in vaccinating," said an official of the Control Team of anti-smuggling in the Northern region.

Deputy Director of the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department Vu Quang Toan said that carrying out the anti-smuggling task during a pandemic creates pressure because it is necessary to ensure good control of the area, and to ensure the prevention and control for civil servants. When implementing professional measures, the Department's leaders always require officials and employees to strictly comply with regulations on pandemic prevention and control.

“In addition to arranging forces in key areas, in order to promote effective control during the pandemic, the unit also enhanced the capture, analysis and sharing of information with other units of local customs to promptly detect and prevent violations,” said Mr. Vu Quang Toan.

Buses across Vietnam

Another key task of the Anti-Smuggling Investigation Department is to focus on handling violations with criminal signs. However, it is very difficult to meet, agree and implement legal measures in the context of social distancing.

The captain of the Criminal Investigation Team (Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department) Nghiem Xuan Tho recalled, when the pandemic broke out in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, a number of cases were about to expire at the end of the time to hand over the files to the police agency according to regulations (specifically the Ho Chi Minh City Police Department) but travel is extremely difficult. At this time, travel by air, railway, and public transport by road between the two localities was temporarily suspended.

After many meetings, the Team had to decide on a plan to arrange working groups to drive cars from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. These are situations that are almost unprecedented.

“A working group is assigned two civil servants. At that time, the conditions to enter Ho Chi Minh City had to be vaccinated with two doses of vaccine, and have a negative test result for SARS-Cov 2. During the journey of more than one thousand kilometers, there were no pandemic facilities. Services (hotels, restaurants, car repair shops) operate, so during a week of moving from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and vice versa, you have to eat and rest entirely in the car. When he returned to Hanoi, he had to quarantine for two weeks as prescribed. That is not to mention the risks that may be encountered on the road such as damaged cars with almost no repair facilities. Fortunately, along the way from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and vice versa, the headquarters of Binh Thuan Port Customs Branch (Dong Nai Customs Department) was located near National Highway 1A, so we asked our colleagues to take a shower, then move on. Even though we went to the headquarters of the Sub-department; because of the requirements of pandemic prevention, we were unable to meet face-to-face or eat meals together, even though the officers and employees at the Branch were very enthusiastic and hospitable," said an official in the Team of Criminal investigation.

With great efforts in 2021, the Customs control force has achieved many victories, making important contributions to the results of comprehensive completion of customs work in 2021.

By Thai Binh/Bui Diep

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