On January 30, the Ho Chi Minh City Public Security Investigative Police Agency (Economic Police Department of Ho Chi Minh City Public Security) said that the investigation had been concluded and they were ready to transfer the conviction to Ho Chi Minh City Procuracy. Pham Van Cuong (born in 1983; Passport number: N178337, residing in Tan Lam Duong commune, Thach Ha district, Ha Tinh province) will be prosecuted for “violating restrictions on the preservation of endangered and unusual species,” as defined in Clause 2, Article 244 of the Criminal Code.
According to the investigation’s findings, Pham Van Cuong contacted Nguyen Quoc Toan (born in 1988, residing in Angola) on May 26, 2022, to purchase a plane ticket from Angola to Vietnam. Cuong landed in Luanda (Angola) on June 19, 2022, and met Toan at his residence, where he remained until the afternoon of June 23, 2022, when he boarded an aircraft back to Vietnam. Cuong also encountered a guy named Oanh (whose identity is unclear) at Toan’s residence and asked Cuong to transport two boxes of items back to Vietnam, and Cuong agreed.
Cuong noticed Toan and Oanh remove frozen plastic bags from Toan’s house’s freezer section at midday on June 23, 2022, while packing personal goods. Cuong was informed that there was beef and goat meat inside two styrofoam boxes secured with duct tape. Following that, Oanh gave Cuong a sim card and told him that when he returned to Vietnam, someone called Thuan would contact him to collect the things.
Checking smuggled rhino horns
Hereafter, Cuong flew from Angola to Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City on Emirates flight EK392 with six pieces of baggage checked in. Cuong passed through immigration processes at 23:00 on June 24, 2022, and did not declare customs for bags on arrival. When the Imported Baggage Procedures Team – Tan Son Nhat International Airport Customs Branch arrived at the customs inspection area, they discovered 11 samples wrapped in nylon layers in 2 pieces of Cuong’s luggage. Inside the fresh meat are products of wild animals, including 2kg of rhino horn (2 pieces), 1.6kg of ivory (3 pieces), and 6 leopard fangs.
The Import Luggage Procedure team documented the occurrence and subsequently reported it to the appropriate authorities. On the same day, Nguyen Quoc Toan instructed Trieu Tien Thuan to travel to Tan Son Nhat International Airport to get the products from Cuong. As he did not receive the packages until 23:30, he ended up leaving.
Ivory, pangolin scales in a smuggling case
On July 5, 2022, the Investigation Police Agency of Tan Binh District issued a decision to prosecute a criminal case against the accused, and applied measures to prevent the temporary detention of Pham Van Cuong for the crime of “violating regulations on the protection of endangered and rare animals”. The matter was subsequently referred to Ho Chi Minh City Economic Police Department for further investigation based on its competency.
Based on the documents and evidence gathered, the investigating agency determined that Cuong had committed the act of transporting wildlife products such as rhino horn, ivory, and leopard fangs from Angola to Vietnam. The investigation also pointed out that Cuong did not have the intention to declare the required customs for imported goods, including 2kg of black rhino horn with the scientific name Diceros bicornis (Appendix 1, List of wild animals and plants based on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Pham Van Cuong’s acts have constituted the offence of “violating legislation on the conservation of endangered and unusual species”.