Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried a Vietnamese businessman over the trafficking of more than 100 kilos of cocaine hidden inside octopuses that were shipped from Nicaragua to Preah Sihanouk Autonomous Port on November 26, 2016.
Presiding Judge Ros Piseth identified the accused as Vuong Minh Quoc, 40, president of Golden Link International Import and Export. The accused was charged with drug trafficking and faces life in prison if convicted.
Judge Piseth said that national anti-drug trafficking police arrested Mr Vuong on November 26, 2016, and seized 110 kilos of cocaine from the shipment of octopuses sent to his company.
Brigadier General Sary Botrsatya, national deputy anti-drug trafficking police chief, told the court that on November 1, 2016, his department received a tip-off from China’s Ministry of State Security that a ship heading to Cambodia had berthed off China’s waters.
He said that Chinese authorities boarded the ship and found container loads of octopuses which had 1,110 kilograms of cocaine hidden in them.
“Chinese authorities said that they arrested the ship’s captain and seized 1,000 kilograms of cocaine but left 110 kilograms behind,” Brig Gen Botrsatya said. “They wanted to find out who owned the shipment, so they let the ship’s assistant captain continue the journey to Cambodia.”
He said that after receiving the tip-off, anti-drug police set a trap to arrest the owner of the drugs.
Brig Gen Botrsatya noted that on November 24, 2016, the ship docked at Preah Sihanouk Autonomous Port. He said that the containers were transported to Golden Link International Import and Export for storage after being cleared by customs.
Brig Gen Botrsatya added that police discreetly kept watch on the shipment.
On November 26, the accused and three colleagues arrived by car from Vietnam to receive the shipment but were stopped by police at the border in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet city.
Brig Gen Botrsatya added that Mr Voung was arrested, but the other three managed to flee back to Vietnam.
“After his arrest, police accompanied him to inspect his container loads of octopuses,” he told the court.
Brig Gen Botrsatya said police inspected the three containers and found 110 kilograms of cocaine hidden in octopuses packed in 2,268 cartons of ice. Police seized the cocaine, and destroyed all 20 tonnes of octopuses.
During yesterday’s trial, Mr Vuong denied the allegations. He said that he had a contract to import octopuses from Nicaragua for sale in Cambodia and Vietnam.
“I did not know that there were drugs hidden in my shipment of octopuses,” he told the court. “I was very surprised and shocked when I saw the drugs.”“It is not mine and I would like the court to please drop the charge and release me,” he added.A verdict is due September 17.