|The Anti-Smuggling Enforcement Team in the North (Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department, General Department of Customs) presided over and coordinated with the Express Delivery Customs Branch (Hanoi Customs Department) to seize infringing goods at a warehouse in Thach Loi village, Thanh Xuan commune, Soc Son, Hanoi on September 14, 2021.|
Getting tested for Covid-19 to stop contraband
In 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic had been complicated in the country and around the world. The smuggling of medicine, medical equipment and supplies for pandemic prevention and control has been heating up day by day, especially smuggling via aviation express delivery and postal services.
Director of Express Delivery Customs Branch (Hanoi Customs Department) Le Dung said: “The tricks of the smugglers are to split goods into small packages, falsely declare the nature of goods to illegal bring them into the country.”
Not only was it a battle of wits with smugglers, during the pandemic when many provinces and cities implemented social distancing, the inspection and seizure of contraband was a challenge for the customs sector.
In early September 2021, when discovering a large-scale smuggling ring of Covid-19 and cancer treatment drugs from India to Ho Chi Minh City and then transferred to Hanoi, the Anti-Smuggling Enforcement Team in the Northern region planned to seize the items. Reporters for Customs News were given the opportunity to witness the inspection and seizure to provide information and pictures from the scene.
In addition to preparations on machines and devices for communication, we were required to have a negative test result for SARS-CoV-2 because the inspection site was a gathering place, centralized inspection and supervision site for goods in the form of postal and express delivery in Thach Loi village, Thanh Xuan commune, Soc Son district, Hanoi, where “the three-on-spot” model was implemented.
The working term and the reporters were required to get tested for Covid-19 at the National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion.
“The SARS-CoV-2 testing was unexpected, but we were not passive because we actively made plans during the pandemic in advance,” said an officer of the Anti-Smuggling Enforcement Team.
After having a negative test result, on September 14, the Anti-Smuggling Enforcement Team presided over and coordinated with the Ho Chi Minh City Customs Department, Hanoi Express Customs Branch, and the Police Department for Corruption, Smuggling and Economic Crimes (C03, Ministry of Public Security) to inspect 15 packages with signs of violation and discovered more than 60,000 pills for Covid-19 and cancer treatment. In this plan, the Customs officers discovered tens of thousands of similar pills in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in following inspections.
“Due to the special characteristics of the job, during the period when Hanoi implemented social distancing, the team still had to arrange officers at key areas, especially the Noi Bai international airport. Because the smuggling of medicine and medical supplies for pandemic prevention via air was increasing. During the social distancing period, the team handled many smuggling cases of these items at Noi Bai international airport. When performing tasks, we were worried about disease, so we strictly followed the requirements on 5K measures and were ready and proactive in vaccination,” said an officer of the team.
Deputy Director of the Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department Vu Quang Toan said the anti-smuggling task during the pandemic is a great challenge. Because the customs officers must both ensure good control in the area and ensure the prevention and control of the pandemic. The department’s leaders have always required customs officers to strictly comply with regulations on pandemic prevention and control.
“In addition to arranging officers in key areas to promote effective control during the pandemic, the department has collected, analysed and shared information with local customs units to promptly detect and prevent violations,” said Toan.
Another key task of the Anti-Smuggling Investigation Department is to focus on handling cases with criminal signs. But, it was very difficult to meet, agree and implement legal measures in the context of social distancing.
The head of the Criminal Investigation Team (Anti-Smuggling and Investigation Department) Nghiem Xuan Tho recalled, when the pandemic broke out in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, a number of cases were about to pass the deadline to hand over the files to the police agency but traveling was extremely difficult.
After many meetings, the team had to decide on a plan to arrange working groups to drive cars from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.
“A working group consists of two officers. At that time, the officers were required to be vaccinated with two doses and have a negative test result for SARS-Cov 2 to enter Ho Chi Minh City. Due to the social distancing, there were no service facilities open (hotels, restaurants, car repair shops) so during a week from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and vice versa, the customs officers had to eat and rest entirely in the car and when returning to Hanoi, the officers were requested to quarantine for two weeks as prescribed. That is not to mention the risks that may be encountered on the road such as damage to the vehicle. Fortunately, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and vice versa, the headquarters of Binh Thuan Port Customs Branch (Dong Nai Customs Department) was located near National Highway 1A, so we asked our colleagues for some help. Even though we went to the headquarters of Binh Thuan Customs Branch, because of the requirements of pandemic prevention, we were unable to meet face-to-face or eat meals together with the branch’s customs officers though they were very enthusiastic and hospitable,” said an officer of the working group.
|Anti-smuggling and crime prevention during the pandemic|
Given the great efforts, the Customs control force achieved many victories, making important contributions to the comprehensive results of customs work in 2021.