Vietnam shocked by ‘toothpaste tube’ drug smuggling scandal
Police in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City have arrested 65 people for allegedly smuggling 50kg of drugs, some hidden in toothpaste tubes, into the country.
The arrests this week come after four Vietnam Airlines cabin crew were arrested last month with toothpaste tubes in carry-on bags after a flight from Paris to Ho Chi Minh City.
Police said that this week’s arrests come after they uncovered another six shipments of narcotics being smuggled into Vietnam via the same route, reported BBC.
Local media reports said that the suspects are being investigated for various charges, including buying, selling, transporting and storing narcotics.
The suspects allegedly were directed by the same smuggling ring that hired the flight attendants.
Authorities said that around half of the 327 toothpaste tubes that flight attendants were transporting last month contained drugs.
According to investigators, the attendants were not aware of the contents of the tubes.
They are currently out on bail.
Investigators released them last month as there was “not enough basis” to accuse them of drug trafficking, local reports said.
Authorities believe that the same drug syndicate often uses Vietnamese nationals studying and living in France to bring drugs into the country.
After their arrival at Vietnam’s airports, the drugs are transported by domestic delivery services to an accomplice in Dong Nai province bordering Saigon.
4 Vietnam Airlines flight attendants who were detained with 11.4kg of drugs in their luggages have been released due to lack of evidence. The 4 flew from Paris to HCMC on 16 March carrying 154 toothpaste tubes containing ecstasy & ketamine but denied that they were aware of them pic.twitter.com/cxnkK6BNAi
— Nga Pham (@ngahpham) March 22, 2023
They are then taken to multiple localities for distribution.
Despite having some of the strictest drug laws in the world, Vietnam is a major drug-trafficking hub.
Conviction for possession or smuggling more than 600g of heroin or more than 2.5kg of methamphetamine in Vietnam may include the death penalty.
Production or sale of illegal narcotics above certain quantities is also punishable by death in the country
Capital Ho Chi Minh City remains a transit point for smugglers due to its proximity to Cambodia.