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Vietnam cracks down on Coast Guard oil smuggling ring

The wife of a former Coast Guard regional commander has been prosecuted for accepting bribes for her husband’s role in smuggling oil from Singapore to Vietnam.

The indictment from the Central Military Procuracy accused Phan Thi Xuan, wife of former commander of the 3rd Coast Guard Region Maj. Le Xuan Thanh, of receiving the equivalent of U.S.$80,000 from gasoline smuggler Phan Thanh Huu in 11 installments, state media said on Monday.

On Tuesday the military court of Military Zone 7 was set to open a first-instance court hearing, to hear charges of smuggling, accepting bribes, and helping those involved flee abroad.

The defendants include Le Van Minh, former commander of the Vietnam Coast Guard’s Fourth Region and former Third Region commander Le Xuan Thanh

Others facing prosecution include Maj. Luu Duc The, former deputy head of Reconnaissance 2 at Coast Guard Command; Col. Nguyen The Anh, former commander of the Border Guard of Kien Giang Province; and Col. Pham Van Tren, former commander of the Border Guard of Tra Vinh province. All have been charged with accepting bribes.

Col. Nguyen The Anh and one other person have also been charged with helping people flee Vietnam.

Col. Phung Danh Thoai, former Head of the Petroleum Department’s Logistics Department at the Coast Guard Command was charged with smuggling.

The charges date from between March 2020 and Feb. 2021 when the director of Phan Le Hoang Anh Trading, Phan Thanh Huu, and his accomplices smuggled about 200 million liters of gasoline, worth about U.S.$130 million, into Vietnam.

Col. Phung Danh Thoai is said to have helped finance the operation and share in its profits to the tune of U.S.$941,000.

Former commander Le Van Minh was accused of abusing his position and power to receive U.S.$295,000 paid by Phan Thanh Huu to his wife and children.

Investigations into all the defendants recovered more than $1.5 million. The former commanders of Coast Guard Region 3 and Coast Guard Region 4 returned all the money they are accused of receiving.

The Procuracy of Dong Nai province also recently cracked down on oil smugglers, issuing an indictment against Phan Thanh Huu and 72 accomplices. It prosecuted Cpt. Ngo Van Thuy of the Team 3 Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department of the General Department of Customs for taking bribes.

The case dates back to Sept. 2019 when Phan Thanh Huu and Ocean Hai Phong Director Dao Ngoc Vien conspired to smuggle petroleum from Singapore to Vietnam. Col. Phung Dah Thoai and his accomplices are said to have contributed $2.3 million to finance the operation.