The accused included 21 people charged with trafficking 18 kilograms of heroin from 2004 to 2006, Hoa said. The group centered around former Hanoi policeman Nguyen Van Dua, 43.

The eight other defendants are former policemen, court officials and judges accused of accepting bribes to allow Dua and his accomplices to escape sentencing in 2006 when the case first went to trial. All the accused were acquitted at that time.

According to the newspaper Phap Luat, Dua, then a policeman in Hanoi, was originally arrested in 2006 for corruption in a different drug case. The mother of a convicted drug trafficker accused him of accepting bribes in exchange for a promise to help her son avoid the death penalty.

When her son was executed anyway, the mother turned Dua in. While arresting Dua, police found packages of heroin at his home and uncovered his involvement in the drug-trafficking ring in Thai Nguyen.

If convicted, Dua could face the death penalty.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - March 15, 2010