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Flow of smuggled goods across the Mekong river border - Part 1: "Matrix" of illicit sugar

18:33 | 22/07/2017

VCN- Smuggling operations at the border of the Mekong Delta provinces seem to be calmer than before, but in reality this activity is like submarine waves, and smuggling continues across the border with more sophisticated methods. While illicit sugar is constantly evolving to avoid competent forces, illegal cigarettes are complicated, along with potentially complicated drug crimes in the border area.

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The reception of smuggled sugar in the canal area (My Duc commune) - Ha Tien - Kien Giang border. Photo: D.N.

Illicit sugar on canoes in Kien Giang

The border area of ​​Kien Giang in mid June 2017 with the showers made the road into the area of ​​My Duc become muddy road. In this area, Thai sugar and foreign cigarettes were loaded on canoes from Cambodia in a creek filled with grass to Vietnam to find opportunities the inland.

We followed Customs officers from Kien Giang to catch illegal goods in the canal area. Although it was raining, porters still operated with carefully covered sacks. Each motorcycle carries 6 bags of sugar (each bag 50kg), so come and take. The path between the two plots of land in the rain became muddy, slippery but they ran as good as on the asphalt. An accompanying Customs officer said that in this area they were almost unscathed, so they could easily transported and then onto the asphalt road on Highway 80. They would run quickly to the roadside depot where the receipt voucher and the were ready to cope with Customs officers.

We continued to observe, on the other side of the border, bags of sugar were coated, guarded with plastic wrap carefully waiting for "export". The boat after coming to Vietnam returned to Cambodia to continue receiving goods. It was still raining! Crystallized sugar was still smuggled to Vietnam on canoes. A group of porters discovered us so they stopped. The illicit sugar on canoes were waiting to be transported. Rain started to become heavy. We had to "withdraw" and knew for sure that canoes carrying traces of smuggled goods would cross the border faster.

Returning to Highway 80 when the rain stopped, two motorcycles loaded with contraband suddenly sped towards the town of Ha Tien. We quickly followed. Through Thach Dong area, they looked over and discovered the camera so they quickly turned to the roadside house. "This was a small warehouse of shippers. The inspections and arrest in accordance with the provisions should be full of competent forces. However, when customs forces reached, only the sugar bags were replaced with the shell of domestic sugar with full documents", a Customs officer said.

Mr. Le Van Cuong, the Deputy Head of the Customs Control Team – the Kien Giang Customs Department said: "According to the Customs Department of Kien Giang, the situation of smuggling and illegal transportation of goods across the border in the first 6 months of 2017 tended to increase over the same period in 2016. Currently, there are only a few warehouses of smuggled sugar at the border area of ​​Ha Tien. Due to the strict inspections, perpetrators almost did not leave their goods at the warehouse for a long time but quickly changed the packaging and applied the invoice to the inland. Since the beginning of the year, Kien Giang province's authorities have seized about 60 tons of illegal sugar, but still seem to be modest compared to the actual smuggled sugar across border of Kien Giang every day.

Smuggling of sugar is increasingly sophisticated

In the first 6 months of 2017, competent forces in Dong Thap province seized more than 73 tons of illicit sugar. According to the Steering Committee 389 of Dong Thap province, shippers ordered or bought crystallized sugar from the border citizens. Immediately after receiving the goods, they immediately changed the packaging into 12 kg type; then used trucks for consumption. They always used legal invoices, vouchers to legalize smuggled goods. In addition to the old methods, perpetrators have "camouflaged" as farmers to transport illicit sugar to the inland. Currently, a bag of sugar transported from the border to the city of Cao Lanh, after deducting costs will be profitable from 50,000 VND to 60,000 VND, which stimulates the perpetrators to transport smuggled sugar.

In order to catch and handle a smuggling is a process of struggling. The seizure must be tight, if there is a little loopholes, there will be also opportunities for the shippers to escape. Mr. Phan Thanh, Head of the customs control team of the Dong Thap Customs Department, said that the treatment after the seizure.

At the beginning of June 2017, the Customs Control Team- Dong Thap Customs Department cooperated with Police of An Thanh Ward, Hong Ngu Town to conduct patrol and inspection, detecting an object carrying 3 packs of smuggled sugar into a warehouse on Tran Hung Dao Street, Hong Ngu town. Therefore, competent forces conducted inspections and at the same time notified the warehouse owner to coordinate for suspected containment of contraband goods. In addition to the 3 smuggled sugar on motorbikes, the team found that there were 17 sugar bags with a total weight of nearly 1 ton. Store owner named Nguyen Ngoc Giau said that he bought them from many carriers at the border. He acknowledged that all of these bags were made by Thailand. When finishing, he replaced the domestic road packing to avoid detection and organize for inland transportation.

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It can be said that sugar smuggling activities on the southwestern border existed for decades. It is noticeable that more than 10 years ago, smuggled sugar were transported by bicycles, but now they are mainly transported on rucks and force boats, motorbikes. Why it happened? Do consumers still like foreign sugar or domestic sugar can not compete in the domestic market? Sugarcane cultivation and sugar processing are one of the important agricultural and processing sectors, but why are they weak?

By Dang Nguyen/ Hoang Anh