~ Le ViÍt Nam, aujourd'hui. ~
The Vietnam News

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Vietnam sentences Australian man to 20 years in prison for heroin trafficking

HANOI - An Australian man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for heroin trafficking in Vietnam after he was caught on an airplane having swallowed condoms stuffed with drugs, state media reported Wednesday. Kant Nguyen, an Australian citizen of Vietnamese origin, was convicted of trafficking 219 grams of heroin (0.5 pounds) at Ho Chi Minh City People's Court Tuesday, the city police newspaper said. Court officials were not available for comment Wednesday.

Nguyen told the court during the one-day trial that he was hired for 20,000 Australian dollars (US$17,700) to smuggle the drugs from Vietnam to Australia, it said. A Vietnam Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing last May after Nguyen became severely ill after swallowing 75 condoms of heroin, it said.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Possessing, trading or trafficking more than 600 grams (1.3 pounds) of heroin or 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of opium is punishable by death or life in prison. Smugglers frequently try to hide drugs in plastic packets or condoms that they swallow. A break in any of the packets can result in a fatal overdose.

The Associated Press - January 30, 2008.