CUU LONG (MEKONG) DELTA (VNS) — The Ministry of Public Security police have indicted six members of an alleged sugar smuggling gang in the Mekong Delta after raids last week unearthed hundreds of tonnes of sugar and vehicles thought to be used for smuggling in their possession.
The six include the alleged kingpin of the large gang, Vy Nguon Thanh, 48, of Chau Doc city in An Giang Province.
The other five arrested are all An Giang residents, namely Tran Thi Thu Hong, Le Tong Quang, Tran Thi Hoa Phuong, Huynh Trung Hoa, and Nguyen Van Tung.
On February 7, officers raided several warehouses in Chau Phu A Ward in Chau Doc thought to be used to store contraband sugar from Thailand.
They arrested Thanh and nearly 40 others for allegedly illegally transporting goods across the border and trading them, and seized 754 tonnes of sugar, eight lorries, two motorboats, and VND40 million in cash.
On the same day warehouses owned by Thanh's family in nearby An Phu District were searched and nearly 200 tonnes of sugar were seized.
Sugar currently costs VND16,500-17,000 per kilogramme in the market while Thai sugar sells for a mere VND12,000 along Viet Nam's border with Cambodia, according to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Last year authorities in An Giang Province seized 790 tonnes of contraband sugar, 3.6 times the previous year's figure.
Nguyen Thanh Long, chairman of the Viet Nam Sugar and Cane Association, said sugar has been smuggled into Viet Nam over the Cambodia border for several years, with some 500,000 tonnes brought in a year, representing a third of Viet Nam's own output.
Apart from the loss caused to local farmers, the smuggling also denies some VND700 billion (nearly US$33 million) in tax revenues to the state coffers.
Since early January police and market watch forces in An Giang have been carrying on a campaign against smuggling in border areas.
While the police are trying to combat the problem, the smuggling is becoming more sophisticated and rife with Tet approaching and demand for various products increasing. Gold, electronics, wood, and wine are some of the most popular items with smugglers.
They often bring the goods in the middle of the night or early in the morning to get them over the border easily, Phan Loi, head of the An Giang Market Watch Agency, said.
They also disguise the products and change locations to make it more difficult for authorities to find them, he added. — VNS