When Ho Chi Minh City police recently called for prosecution of Van Kinh Duong, Vu Hoang Anh Ngoc and Nguyen Duc Ky Nam for producing, trafficking and storing narcotic substances, it signalled curtains for a long life of crime.
Seven other gang members are also facing prosecution.
Van Kinh Duong, the ringleader, faces prosecution for additional crimes including document forgery, fraud and escaping from detention facilities.
Duong’s brushes with the law goes back to 2008, when he was sentenced to jail for robbery and storing narcotics.
But in 2010, when his sentence was still in effect, Duong broke out of prison along with three other inmates.
He returned to his life of crime, this time delivering drugs for Hoang Phuong Lam, another drug lord based in Hanoi, from the capital to southern Vietnam.
In 2012, Lam’s ring was busted by the Ministry of Public Security, but Duong managed to slip through the cracks and disappear once more.
It was later found that Duong was residing in Saigon after changing his name to Tran Ngoc Hieu. In Saigon, he is said to have met a mysterious patron, Tom, in a bar in 2016. Duong neither knows Tom’s real name nor where he lives.
Tom taught Duong to create narcotics from scratch, and provided the substances to make them.
In the beginning, Duong was only in charge of finding locations and hiring workers to construct drug-producing facilites. Later, he created his own drug ring, with his cousin Nguyen Duc Ky Nam joing him as a manager for one facility in Dong Nai Province, which neighbors HCMC. Nam was also in charge of creating new types of drugs.
As his business boomed and other drug rings stepped up their game, Duong decided to expand his empire. New facilities in the central regions and HCMC were constructed for this purpose. He took great care to avoid detection, passing orders to his underlings remotely.
But Duong lived a high life in Saigon with his girlfriend Hoang Anh Ngoc, who also helped him to store narcotics until the ring was busted in April last year.
Duong and his ring had already been on the police’s radar for more than a year by then. In the raid that busted the gang, police seized more than 500,000 ecstasy pills, 120 kilograms of powdered drugs, seven cars and over VND10 billion ($446,000) in cash, along with numerous machinery and real estate properties in several cities and provinces including HCMC and Nha Trang.
Investigations have revealed that the ecstasy powder was first made in Nha Trang, before being delivered to Dong Nai and HCMC to be molded into pills and stored in coffee packages.
Each package contained 500 to 1,000 pills. Each pill could fetch VND50,000 ($2,14) to VND200,000, depending on the location and the buyers.
Police are searching for Duong’s mysterious patron Tom.
Vietnam is a key trafficking hub for narcotics despite having some of the world’s toughest drug laws.
Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamines face the death penalty. The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.
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