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Vietnam pilot charged with smuggling drug cash from Australia
Tuesday, April 1

SYDNEY (AFP) - - A Vietnam Airlines pilot was charged in an Australian court Tuesday with smuggling millions of dollars in drug profits out of the country.

Quoc Viet Lai, 58, faces 40 counts of money laundering after allegedly taking 3.7 million dollars (3.4 million US) out of Australia between June 2005 and June 2006, the national AAP news agency reported.

Lai was arrested Monday when he touched down at Sydney airport after a flight from Ho Chi Minh City.

He appeared Tuesday in Sydney's Central Local Court, where prosecutor Rodney Ferral-Smith warned that the pilot might flee if he was granted bail.

"The defendant has no ties to Australia. His family as far as we know are in Vietnam," he said. "The offence is a serious one. We're concerned that there is a risk he won't appear."

Magistrate Allan Moore refused bail and remanded Lai in custody until May 28.

Another pilot for Vietnam's national airline was jailed here for four and a half years last August after pleading guilty to laundering 6.5 million dollars.

Van Dang Tran was arrested in June 2006 when he tried to leave Sydney airport with 540,000 dollars in cash in his cabin luggage.

In Vietnam, several Australians of Vietnamese origin have been arrested over the past few years for trafficking heroin from Ho Chi Minh City to Australia, with some sentenced to death.

Posted on 07 Apr 2008

Human Rights Watch


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