Vietnam Airlines flight attendants arrested with drugs


Four flight attendants of Vietnam Airlines were arrested on March 16, 2023 at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Vietnam. According to media reports, these flight attendants were arrested immediately after a flight from Paris reached Ho Chi Minh City. Customs officials at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport detected drugs in flight attendant’s luggage, while according to law enforcement agencies, the drugs were packed inside toothpaste tubes, which is seen as unconventional method. The cabin crews thought that no one would find anything suspicious about someone carrying more than 150 tubes of toothpaste.

According to Radio Free Asia report, flight attendants Dang Phuong Van, Tran Thi Thu Nga, and Vo Tu Quynh, as well as cabin manager Nguyen Thanh were caught red-handed with 11.50 kilograms of illegal drugs. The four flight attendants were transporting 154 toothpaste tubes crammed with contraband; 112 of those tubes were filled with grey tablets, which weighed a total of 18.5 pounds including the weight of the packaging. A further 42 toothpaste tubes were stuffed with white powder weighing 6.7 pounds total. Tests concluded that the tablets were ecstasy and ketamine and the powder was cocaine.

Detained flight attendants claim someone in France paid them US$424, or 10 million Vietnamese dong, to transport “some goods” to Vietnam and did not believe the tubes were tampered with. Vietnam is notorious for harsh punishments for drug violations. Those found guilty of drug crimes often face life in prison, or even the death penalty.

According to media reports, Vietnam Airlines believes that the flight attendants were helping friends transport the illegal goods. The flight attendants were relatively new employees at the airline, with roughly a year’s experience. Customs officials were tipped off about the alleged smuggling scheme, and law enforcement hoped to apprehend the alleged traffickers as they picked up the cargo at the airport, but no one arrived to collect the luggage.

On the evening of March 16, the head of Vietnam’s Civil Aviation Administration revealed that three Vietnam Airlines flight attendants on aircraft VN10 were arrested for transporting narcotics and ecstasy from France to Vietnam.

The Vietnam Civil Aviation Administration also stated that to prevent and combat smuggling, commercial fraud, and counterfeit goods via air, the Department has requested that units continue to strengthen inspection and supervision to detect, control, and handle smugglers illegally transporting goods by air.

To dodge detection by scanners and professional dogs of Customs, objects of drug trafficking and transporting via air, courier, and postal routes use sophisticated camouflage tricks such as: putting drugs in fake compartments in bags, packages, medicine bottles, functional foods, candy boxes, cosmetics, in household items or ingesting drugs in people, etc.

On March 21, 2023, law enforcement agencies were still interrogating the women attendants who were members of a Vietnam Airlines crew on an international flight from Paris to HCMC. The HCMC police have found no illicit drugs at the residences of the four Vietnam Airlines flight attendants who were caught red-handed carrying illicit drugs to the country last week.

At the press conference about the seizure of more than 11kg of drugs illegally transported by air in the four flight attendants’ carry-on bags of the national carrier Vietnam Airlines, the leader of Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department said that this is a serious and unprecedented case.

When arrested, the flight attendants were all very shocked and cooperated very well with the investigation agency. Director of Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department Dinh Ngoc Thang said he did not understand why the young flight attendants did that. This is a warning for young people to act without thinking.

According to Deputy Director of Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department Nguyen Huu Nghiep, the Customs authority also detected violations by flight attendants about “carrying” infringing goods, but this is the first time they had found a flight attendant-related drug smuggling case.

Through the above incident, the leader of the city Customs issued a warning that everyone, especially those who work in management agencies must be very vigilant when carrying goods.

At the end of 2011, Tan Son Nhat International Airport Customs Branch discovered Tran Ha Tien, a 3rd-year student of a university in Ho Chi Minh City, on flight QR688 from Doha (Qatar) to Vietnam and carry 4.1kg of drugs hidden in a double-bottomed suitcase.

Accordingly, the policy agency expanded the investigation, the police agency arrested Tien’s elder sister, Tran Ha Duy, 23, who is also a student involved in this drug ring. According to Tran Ha Tien’s confession, with the introduction of her elder sister, Tien was hired by a Nigerian man named Francis to carry the drugs to Doha with a remuneration of 1,000 USD/case.

In addition to having her younger sister fulfill Francis’ delivery request, Duy also asked his friend Huynh Ngoc Loi to carry a suitcase containing 3.5 kg of drugs to Vietnam, then to Cambodia and was arrested by the police.

However, the investigation revealed that Loi did not know that the suitcase contained drugs, so there were not enough grounds for criminal handling. In this case, the investigating agency determined that Duy was taken in custody for 7.5 kg of drugs hidden in the suitcases of Loi and Tien.

Up to the day of her arrest, Duy and his accomplices had smuggled drugs for Francis in 11 cases from many countries.

On March 27, 2012, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Tran Ha Duy to life in prison and Tran Ha Tien to 20 years in prison for the same crime of “illegal transportation of drugs”.

VietJet offers bikini and lingerie-clad flight attendants

Vietnamese private budget airline VietJet’s market capitalization surpassed that of state-owned Vietnam Airlines.

VietJet grabbed headlines with bikini-clad flight attendants when it was launched in 2011 and its success on the Ho Chi Minh stock exchange reflects its rapid ascent since.

It has become known in Vietnam as the “bikini airline” and female crew do still wear them, but only on some flights.

Its market share is expected to top that of Vietnam Airlines this year, a feat it has achieved by tapping into a fast-growing economy and a young population starting to travel more.

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