The People’s Procuracy in Hanoi has completed documents to prosecute a former officer from the municipal anti-smuggling agency, charging him with ‘embezzlement,’ which carried capital punishment as the highest penalty.
According to police records, Pham Minh Hoang took up the post as a custodian of a warehouse for seized goods of the Customs Department in the northern metropolis in mid-2016.
Hoang was provided with a key to the facility and responsible for supervising the storage, arrival and withdrawal of confiscated items and proposing ways to deal with them legally.
The 36-year-old also had the right to sign on seals stuck onto the warehouse doors.
In 2017 Hoang removed the seals, used the key to enter the place and carried tusks and rhino horns away in a backpack.
He worked with another local man identified as Tran Trong Cuong to find buyers of the stolen items and purchase fake tusks as the replacements.
The authorities said between April and May 2017, Hoang stole 239.6 kilograms of tusks and 6.1 kilograms of rhino horns, which were bought by 26-year-old Hoang Van Dien, also a resident in Hanoi, via the assistance of Cuong, 44.
The sale earned the former custodian over VND2.9 billion ($128,000), VND200 million ($8,800) of which went to accomplice Cuong and the rest was used for his own personal expenses, debt payment and soccer betting.
The Hanoi People’s Procuracy said the severest possible punishment Hoang is subject to is the death penalty, as his crime is considered falling in the scope of corruption.
Cuong and Dien, in the same boat as the man, were prosecuted on counts of misappropriation of property and the buying and selling of illegal goods.
The trade of wild animals’ parts is common in Vietnam, where many people believe that wildlife products possess medicinal properties, despite their efficacy having never been scientifically proved.