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How were more than 30kg of drugs hidden in express parcels seized?

09:08 | 28/08/2021

VCN – Through more than two months of tracking the recipient's address on the parcels, HCM City Customs officers discovered many abnormal points and seized dozens of kilograms of drugs.

Customs officers of HCM Express Customs Branch (HCM City Customs Department) inspected parcels through scanning machine. Photo: T.H
Customs officers of HCM Express Customs Branch (HCM City Customs Department) inspected parcels through scanning machine. Photo: T.H

Two months of tracking

At the beginning of June, when the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in HCM City was complex and the city was applying social distancing under Directive 15 and Directive 16, with the spirit of "fighting the pandemic like fighting the enemy", HCM City Customs Department made efforts to apply many measures to quickly clear goods, avoid congestion at airport and seaport. Drug control in the management area was also strengthened, especially the express delivery route that had been used to transport banned goods. Plan No. 30/KH-KSMT was established and approved by Director of HCM City Customs Department on fighting with a line that took advantage of the express delivery service to illegally transport synthetic drugs from France to HCM City, then drugs would be shipped to other provinces for consumption.

After two months of monitoring, among hundreds of parcels sent by express delivery to Vietnam, officers of Anti-Drug Enforcement Team and the HCM Express Customs Branch discovered many suspicious packages were shipped to Vietnam from France. Notably, 10 parcels were sent by the same person from France to HCM City via express delivery service and the final destination was a recipient in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces.

Following the consignee addresses listed on the parcels and bills of lading, customs officers found that those addresses were not real or the addresses were workers' boarding houses. The Customs authority worked with the express enterprises to send invitations to the consignee many times, but the subjects did not respond and did not come to receive the goods.

The HCM Express Customs Branch and Anti-Drug Enforcement Team (HCM City Customs Department) worked with the Anti-smuggling and Investigation Department (General Department of Vietnam Customs), PC04-HCM City Police Department to conduct a physical inspection. As a result, a total of more than 29kg of MDMA (ecstasy) synthetic drugs and 1.4kg of ketamine were found and seized. The number of drugs detected was disguised in chocolate candies (each candy contains more than 20 MDMA tablets), or mixed in cake packages.

Thousands of synthetic drugs are hidden inside the candy packages (on August 16, 2021)
Thousands of synthetic drugs are hidden inside the candy packages (on August 16, 2021)

Difficult to catch smugglers

According to HCM City Customs Department, the traditional post office and express delivery service are one of the key routes to illegally transport narcotics into Vietnam. The operation tricks of this type of crime are increasingly sophisticated, taking advantage of international shipping companies with networks covering all provinces and cities in Vietnam and having subsidiaries from overseas to send goods in the form of non-merchant parcel. Besides the above case, from the beginning of 2021 until now, the HCM City Customs Department has carried out many special projects and big plans, each case involved 10 of kilograms of drugs.

In April 2021, the Drug Prevention Plan was jointly established by three units: the Anti-Drug Enforcement Team; HCM Express Customs Branch, and Tan Son Nhat International Airport Customs Branch. Those units organised investigation and verification of suspicious imported parcels. As a result, the competent force discovered 36 kg of drugs of all kinds hidden in 16 parcels sent from the US, Canada and Germany in the form of personal non-merchant gifts.

According to Huynh Nam, Head of the Anti-Drug Enforcement Team - HCM City Customs Department, it was very difficult although units had persevered in monitoring and investigating to catch consignees. In fact, according to the bill of lading, the unit verified that all parcels containing drugs had fake addresses or no recipients.

“Currently, it is very easy to buy, sell and send goods online, while drugs are bought and sold without prepayment, hence subjects could track the transit time as well as the clearance time of the parcel. If the goods arrived in HCM City but the parcel had not cleared yet within the prescribed time, the goods would be abandoned. This was a difficult problem for the forces in organising the arrest and handling following the law for drug-related crimes," Nam said.

Another difficulty is smugglers are very cunning, always looking for loopholes in customs management to illegally transport drugs across border such as: using the name, address, fake identity card to send and receive goods; using Zalo and Viber to contact technology motorbike for shipping goods to export service companies to remove traces; camouflage drugs in household appliances, food packages, electronic machinery or tightly wrapped and then put in the middle of walls of packaging cartons to avoid detection through the scanning machine, sniffer dogs, etc.

Thanks to good performance in grasping the situation, developing specific projects and fighting plans, in the past time, the Anti-Drug Enforcement Team, HCM Express Customs Branch, Tan Son Nhat International Airport Customs Branch coordinated and achieved positive results in drug prevention.

By Lê Thu/Thanh Thuy