Tran Ha Duy, 22, a student of the Hong Bang University, received a life sentence and a fine of VND50 million (US$2,412), while her 20-year-old sister Tran Ha Tien – a student of Van Lang University - was sentenced to 20 years with a fine of VND30 million ($1,447).
The court also ordered that the $5,200 payment the siblings had received for their trans-national drug smuggling trips would be confiscated.
The case was busted on July 18, 2011 when security and customs officials at HCMC’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport found Tien carrying more than four kilograms of methamphetamine into Vietnam on a flight from Qatar.
Duy turned herself in to the police after being informed of Tien’s arrest.
Investigations found that Tien was involved in a trafficking ring that brought drugs from Tanzania in Africa to Vietnam via Qatar.
Duy told the police she had met a Kenyan man named Francis on a bus in 2007, and they had kept in touch.
In August 2010, Francis asked her to join his business by delivering clothes and shoes to foreign countries, and she accepted. She also introduced her sister Tien to the business.
Duy was paid $1,000 for each trip. She told the police she had not known that drugs were hidden in the suitcases during the first three trips.
| Students are the new mules |
In mid-2011, HCMC police issued a warning that African drug smuggling rings were using Vietnamese female students as traffickers instead of middle-aged women as they had done earlier.
Duy told the court she was aware that drug smuggling was punishable by death or life imprisonment but continued to do it to earn money to cover her tuitions.
She also said the Kenyan man had repeatedly threatened to kill her sister when he learnt she did not want to continue smuggling.
The import and export of methamphetamine via non-commercial means is prohibited under Vietnamese law. Under Vietnamese laws, possession, transport, or trade of more than 600 grams of heroin or cocaine or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine can be punished with death.