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Smugglers use floods to escape detection

Update: October, 01/2012 - 10:16


Fuel is smuggled through the Vietnamese border provinces of Long An, An Giang, Kien Giang and Ha Tien.—File Photo
AN GIANG (VNS)— Cross-border smugglers operating on boats have taken advantage of floods in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang to transport goods over the Cambodian border.

The wet season in southern Viet Nam has made the task of patrolling the province's nearly 100km-long border with Cambodia more difficult, especially as border areas have been hit by floods.

The deputy head of the anti-smuggling division at the An Giang Customs Department, Nguyen Tan Thanh, said the province's border areas are known as a hot spot for smuggling of tobacco, sugar, cosmetics and used electrical equipment.

He said some of the most common goods to be smuggled were foreign tobacco and sugar, as there was a high demand for these products in the domestic market.

Demand for sweet products was especially high during the Mid-Autumn festival, which ended yesterday. Thanh said the price difference between Vietnamese sugar, at VND17,000 per kilo, and Thai sugar, at bout VND15,000 per kilo, had also motivated smugglers to increase their activities.

Since the beginning of this year, the department's officers had uncovered 85 smuggling cases and confiscated goods worth over VND20.7 billion (US$985,000).

"The number of reported violations has not increased as smugglers are using increasingly complicated tricks, making it difficult for them to be detected," he said.

Smugglers often used high speed boats to transport smuggled goods from Cambodia to the province during the night, when it was too dark to identify the border line clearly, he said.

When the goods crossed the border line, local people were hired as porters to transport the goods along narrow tracks or channels, and finally to residential areas.

Thanh said that it was difficult to detect tobacco smugglers as each porter usually carried about 300 packets, travelling alone or in a group of two to five.

"They even use motorbikes to transport tobacco during the day, and anti-smuggling forces are not allowed to chase smugglers along public roads," Thanh said.

Smugglers who often exceeded the speed limit posed a high risk to local residents, Thanh added. They also hired people to keep watch along smuggling routes to receive tip offs on police activity.

In the case of sugar smuggling, violators even established fake companies, falsifying documents to make the smuggled sugar appear to be legal.

Thanh said smugglers even repackaged smuggled goods in packaging that was re-used from legal domestic products.

When authorities asked for documents proving the origin of goods, they showed used invoices that were originally issued by domestic companies.

Border areas including Vinh Nguon Commune in Chau Doc Town, Khanh Binh, Khanh An, Phu Hoi Communes in An Phu District and Tinh Bien District are major smuggling hot spots.

In an effort to curb smuggling, the provincial police have identified 266 suspected smugglers and 55 places used to store smuggled goods along border areas and National Highway No 91, which runs through the province.

Since the beginning of this year, police have uncovered over 670 cases, arrested 338 smugglers and confiscated goods worth over VND4.6 billion ($220,000). Two fifth of the cases were uncovered on National Highway 91, where 141 vehicles and 90,000 packets of tobacco have been confiscated so far this year. — VNS

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