Airport technician nabbed for helping smuggle hundreds of latest iPhones into Vietnam
Two men and a woman have been arrested for smuggling hundreds of Apple iPhones into Vietnam, including an aircraft technician employed by a subsidiary of national carrier Vietnam Airlines, local media reported on Monday.
This was after local police uncovered their elaborate ruse to avoid paying hundreds of thousands in customs duties.
Le Van Ngoc, 43, and Nguyen Anh Tuan, 33, were arrested, with Ngoc’s wife, 29, also charged for acting as an accomplice to assist the smuggling, the police said on Sunday.
Tuan was arrested at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, after he flew in from Thailand with 12 new iPhone 14 Pro Max devices that were not declared to customs officials, the police said.
Investigations revealed that he had been colluding with Ngoc, a technician in charge of aircraft maintenance with the Vietnam Airlines Engineering Company, to smuggle more than 600 similar phones worth 20 billion dong (S$1.12 million) over an undisclosed period of time.
Ngoc would tell Tuan of his work roster at the airport, information that Tuan would use to book flights from Thailand to the Vietnamese city. Upon touching down at the airport, Tuan would hand a batch of phones bought from Thailand to the aircraft technician, who hid it in his tool bag while he performed his plane maintenance duties.
Ngoc would then leave the airport via a domestic terminal to avoid customs inspections and arranged to deliver the smuggled phones back to Tuan.
The technician earned 900,000 dong (S$50) for each phone he helped Tuan smuggle without paying import duties, the police said, with him and his wife pocketing around 500 million dong in total. Investigations led by Ho Chi Minh City police are ongoing.
Spate of smuggling cases
The case comes less than a month after two men were arrested for smuggling Apple smartphones into Vietnamese airports.
A Thai man was found to have stowed away 20 of the latest iPhone 15 Pro Max devices worth more than 700 million dong in his carry-on luggage upon arriving in central Vietnam’s Da Nang airport from Bangkok on Sept 23, Dan Tri News site reported.
On the same day, a Vietnamese man was arrested for bringing 22 of the same phones he bought for 900 million dong from Singapore without declaring them to airport customs in Ho Chi Minh City.
Passengers arriving in Vietnam are allowed to carry a second phone for personal use, but the second phone may be subject to duties if its value exceeds 10 million dong (S$560).
Apple’s iPhones are highly popular in Vietnam, where supply often falls short of demand amid its high costs. The average Vietnamese earning a monthly average of 7 million dong, according to official statistics, would have to work full-time for more than four months to be able to afford an iPhone 15 Pro that costs 29 million dong.
The latest iPhone 15 models were launched on Sept 22 in markets including Singapore, the US and Thailand, with people in Vietnam only allowed to buy them through official channels a week later.
Hundreds of enterprising Vietnamese flew to Singapore and Thailand to queue for the phones, with a number of them reportedly buying them in bulk to resell back in their country.