Vietnam Airlines crew allegedly smuggled goods into, out of Japan
Several crew members of Vietnam Airlines are suspected to have been involved in a large-scale operation to smuggle articles stolen in Japan out of the country and smuggle foodstuffs into the country in large numbers of suitcases and cardboard boxes brought on their flights from Vietnam, according to police sources.
Dang Xuan Hop, a 33-year-old Vietnam Airlines copilot, was arrested in December on suspicion of attempting to take to Vietnam items stolen by Vietnamese crime groups in Japan. Prosecutors indicted him on charges of transporting stolen goods on Jan. 7.
A special investigation headquarters comprising 14 officers from the Yamaguchi, Saitama and Hyogo prefectural police forces has been investigating the case in an effort to grasp the whole picture of the alleged smuggling, suspecting that Dang was involved in an organized crime in which flight crew put in their luggage items stolen in Japan for resale in Vietnam.
According to police investigators, pilots and crew members of Vietnam Airlines had been bringing unusually large quantities of baggage each time they arrived in Japan, telling customs inspectors that the suitcases and cardboard boxes contained "souvenirs."
The police believe they brought in foodstuffs such as frozen eel in their baggage from Vietnam and took out massive amounts of Japanese cosmetics when they flew back to Vietnam.
When crew members told customs officials that the items were for their own use or that they were souvenirs for their family and friends, the officials were obliged to let them go, according to sources.
According to the police, Dang has admitted receiving money for transporting stolen items from Japan to Vietnam. He was quoted by the police as saying, "All my colleagues were doing the same thing."
The special investigation headquarters believes other crew members were paid to bring items into and out of Japan regularly.
An official of Narita Airport said, "Vietnam Airlines crew members take much more luggage with them than those from other airlines when they enter Japan, even for short stays."
The Yomiuri Shimbun (.jp) - jaunary 25, 2009