On June 1st, 2020, the Hanoi People’s Court opened the first-instance court to judge Nguyen Van Pho (born in 1989, Thach Dieu commune, Thach Ha district, Ha Tinh province) and sentence him to five years in prison for “illegally transporting rare and endangered animals”.
According to the first-instance decisions, on November 7th, 2019, Pho arrived at Noi Bai International Airport from abroad. On his entry, Pho brought two checked suitcases and two carry-on bags. At the airport, on spotting signs of law violation, the Customs Enforcement Team and Entry Luggage Customs Procedure Team, Noi Bai International Airport Customs Branch, requested Pho to bring his luggage to the customs inspection room. Due to a lack of personnel to perform the inspection, they temporarily sealed the luggage.
On the morning of November 8, 2019, the airport security personnel opened Pho’s luggage and discovered a blue gas tank containing a package, which was wrapped with silver foil and winded by copper wire. Inside the foil were two pieces of black rhino horn (weighing nearly 1.9kg), which is on the list of endangered wildlife protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The violation case was then transferred to the police for further investigation.
At the investigation agency, Pho said that when he was a construction worker in Angola, he met a man named Anh – the construction contractor (the man’s identity is unknown). Anh has hired Pho to bring from Angola to Vietnam a suitcase with a green gas tank containing two rhino horns. On returning to Vietnam, Anh would let someone meet Pho and fetch the goods. Pho has accepted Anh’s offer and brought the suitcase from Luanda Airport – Angola, transit at Bangkok – Thailand, to Noi Bai International Airport in which he was noticed and arrested by airport security personnel.
At the trial, the defendant admitted that transporting and possessing rhino horns was illegal, but said he did it for the money.