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Vietnamese woman claims wrongful arrest in France for accused drug sale

Thursday, January 24, 2019, 17:18 GMT+7
Vietnamese woman claims wrongful arrest in France for accused drug sale
French authorities guard the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France. Photo: AFP

A Vietnamese woman who was arrested at a French airport last month over alleged drug dealing activities in Belgium shared her side of the story on Facebook, insisting innocence and claiming to be a victim of identity theft.

Pham Thi Tuyet Mai, 34, was captured by French border police at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on December 18, 2018 while traveling from Vietnam to Malta with her boyfriend, according to a series of six Facebook updates posted to her account on Sunday and Monday.

French authorities told her she was being held as per a European Arrest Warrant ordered by a court in Belgium back in 2014.

Though Mai insisted she had never been to Belgium, French police told her she would be held for up to 48 hours while awaiting a court.

Mai appeared at a court in Paris the next morning, December 19, where she was released on bail but ordered to hand over all identification documents and barred from leaving mainland France.

Mai’s defense lawyer argued to the court that she was merely a victim of identity theft and her personal information had been used to commit crimes she had no knowledge of.

According to Mai, it would be impossible for her to have conducted the crime she was being accused of because she had never been to Belgium.

Mai said she had studied and worked in Amsterdam, the Netherlands for five years before returning to Vietnam in March 2010 with her ex-husband, who was her boyfriend at the time.

She had only been back to Europe once, in November 2011, for a week-long working trip to Barcelona, Spain.

Mai only recently acquired a European visa for her December 2018 trip with her new boyfriend, she claimed.

Vietnam’s response

The Vietnamese foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that the Embassy of Vietnam in France has been informed of the arrest.

The embassy has made contact with French authorities and local lawyers' offices in order to be made aware of the standard legal proceedings in such a case.

The arrest warrant for Mai seeks to execute a four-year sentence handed to her by a court in Antwerpen, Belgium on May 8, 2013 for drug dealing conducted between October 1, 2010 and May 10, 2011, according to the foreign ministry’s statement.

The Vietnamese Embassy in France said it is working with Vatier Law Firm in Paris to discuss Mai’s case and the firm had agreed to defend the Vietnamese national in future court appearances.

The embassy has also met with Mai to hear her side of the story, clarify details of her arrest, and proceed with necessary citizen protection protocols.

On her request, the embassy has asked the Consular and Immigration Control Departments under the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security to verify and provide proof of Mai’s presence in Vietnam during the period when she is accused of drug activities in Belgium to assist her defense in court.

A representative of the Embassy of Vietnam in France was also present at Mai’s second court appearance on January 9, 2019 to make sure her legal rights and interests are best protected, the foreign ministry said in Wednesday’s statement.

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