The HCMC court sentenced Van Kinh Duong and four accomplices to death on Monday for producing 124 kilos of narcotics.
The court found Duong, 39, Nguyen Duc Ky Nam, 52, Le Van Mang, 33, Pham Bao Quan, 37, and Le Huong Giang, 32, guilty of “illegal production of narcotics.”
Other defendants in the case, Nguyen Thu Huyen, Nguyen Ba Thanh, Pham Thi Thu Huyen and Nguyen Dac Huy got life sentences.
Vu Hoang Anh Ngoc, Duong’s girlfriend, will spend 16 years in jail for “illegal storing of narcotics.” The two have a four-year-old child together.
Duong was also given a life sentence for trading narcotics, nine years for fraudulent appropriation of assets, four years for escaping from detention facilities and two years for counterfeiting documents and seals of agencies.
The hardened criminal was first jailed in 2008, when he was charged with robbery and storing narcotics. In 2010, when his sentence was still in effect, Duong broke out of prison along with three other inmates.
Duong then returned to his criminal life by delivering drugs for Hoang Phuong Lam, another druglord based in Hanoi, from the capital city to southern Vietnam.
In 2012, Lam’s ring was busted by the Ministry of Public Security, but Duong managed to give authorities the slip and disappeared once more.
It was later found that Duong was residing in Ho Chi Minh City 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.
Back then Duong told the police he neither knew Tom’s real name nor where he lived. But investigators found out this Tom was actually Nguyen Duc Ky Nam.
Nam 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 facilities. Later, he created his own drug ring, with Nam joining 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. He took great care to avoid detection, passing orders to his underlings remotely.
But Duong also lived a high life in Saigon with his girlfriend Ngoc, who also helped him to store narcotics until the ring was busted in April, 2017.
Duong and his ring had been on the police’s radar for more than a year by then. In the raid that busted the gang, police found that the gang had made 124 kilograms of powdered drugs turned into 500,000 ecstasy pills weighing 120 kilos in total. The pills were hidden in coffee packages.
This has been identified as the largest synthetic drug production and trading ring in Vietnam so far.
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.
By the time it was detected by the police, the ring had already sold 18 kg for VND50,000-70,000 ($2-3) per pill.
The trial opened on July 16.
Vietnam has become a key drug trafficking hub 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.
This article was originally published in Vnexpress