A Chinese man was caught stealing money from two Japanese passengers on a Vietnam Airlines flight from Indonesia to Vietnam on Tuesday, the latest in over a dozen in-flight thefts committed by Chinese passengers on the airline’s planes since early this year.
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Xu Haisheng, 44, was found taking US$5,000 from a wallet in the suitcase of two Japanese passengers when they were on Flight VN631 from Jakarta to Ho Chi Minh City yesterday evening, the Vietnamese national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines said.
The theft was first discovered by a Vietnamese passenger, Nguyen Thi H., 24, whose seat number was 22C.
When the plane was about to descend and land at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in the Vietnamese city, H. saw Xu suddenly leave his seat, 23A, and approach the overhead locker near H.’s seat.
The man then opened a suitcase in the locker, and searched it for a moment before taking out a stack of U.S. banknotes while finally returning to his seat.
H. reported what she saw to a flight attendant, who asked the passengers sitting nearby who owned the suitcase.
The two Japanese passengers, Awaji EiJi, 63, and Ozawa Hitoshi, 57, who took the flight together and whose seat numbers were 21C and 21D, said the suitcase was theirs. They checked it and said $5,000 had been stolen.
The Japanese said they had put their suitcase there as the overhead lockers at their seats were full.
The attendant requested that the Chinese man and the two Japanese passengers stay in their seats, and wait for a settlement after the landing.
When the plane landed at Tan Son Nhat, Xu pulled his suitcase out of the locker above his seat and a number of U.S. banknotes dropped from underneath the suitcase.
Flight attendants immediately kept the money, made a report about the alleged theft, and reported the case to the airport police.
After being questioned, the Chinese man admitted to police that he had stolen the cash from the two Japanese passengers and put it under his suitcase in the locker.
Security recovered the stolen money from Xu and returned it to the two Japanese passengers.
With such an offense, Xu was detained at the airport and subject to a fine, pending deportation back to Indonesia as soon as possible, the security said.
This is the 13th in-flight theft that has been reported on Vietnam Airlines flights since early this year and all thieves have been Chinese, the carrier said.
In May this year, after many such thefts had already occurred on flights, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) asked the Ministry of Public Security to launch an investigation into a suspected in-flight theft ring operated by a Chinese-dominated group of foreigners.
Local aviation security officials identified a group of approximately 10 foreigners – most of whom were Chinese – who were suspected of thefts onboard various Vietnam Airlines commercial flights, said CAAV leader Lai Xuan Thanh.
Le Truong Giang, a Vietnam Airlines spokesman, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the thefts happened on flight routes between Vietnam and Southeast Asian destinations, particularly those from and to Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Laos, and Cambodia.