Dung and two accomplices, one living in Malaysia, reportedly recruited the women in the rural province of Tay Ninh by claiming to have found Malaysian husbands for them.

Police said the group sent a group of three young women to Malaysia earlier this year on the same pretext.

"In fact, they sent these people to Malaysia to work in brothels," said Huynh Van Dung, director of the Tay Ninh Police's Department of Social Order Crime Investigations. "When they arrived in Malaysia, they were sold for 3,000 dollars each."

Police said Dung worked with a friend, Nguyen Thi Deo, 27, who is married to a Malaysian man. Deo reportedly paid Dung 3 million dong (170 dollars) for each woman she recruited.

A third woman, a relative of Deo's living in Tay Ninh, advanced Dung money to procure passports and tickets for the trafficked women.

The Cong An Nhan Dan (People's Police) newspaper quoted one of the trafficked women's mothers as saying they had believed their daughters were being sent to Malaysia for legitimate employment.

Marriage brokers are legal in Vietnam, but must be licensed by the government. The government acknowledges tens of thousands of Vietnamese women have been trafficked abroad over the past decade, and is devoting increasing resources to combatting the crime.

Under Vietnamese law, human trafficking carries a sentence of two to 20 years in prison.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - March 10, 2009