Six other defendants were sentenced to 16 to 30 years in prison during the six-day trial that ended Tuesday.

Vu Ba Chu, chairman of the court in Bac Giang province, said the case concerned the biggest drug-smuggling ring he had ever presided over.

'All the defendants admitted their crimes and asked for clemency,' Chu said. 'However, their actions were so serious, we have to try them in line with the law.'

According to the indictment, two suspects were arrested June 17, 2010, while illegally transporting 700 grams of heroin and 146 methamphetamine tablets to sell in Lang Son province, which borders China.

Police arrested another 18 people accused of being involved in the ring. Police said their investigation revealed the defendants had illegally trafficked and transported 88 packages of heroin weighing a total of 30 kilograms.

The country's biggest drug-smuggling case was in 2007 when 11 people were sentenced to death.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - August 3, 2011