Vietnamese aviation authorities will check all security procedures at local airports after two Vietnam Airlines employees were discovered allegedly smuggling gold from Vietnam to South Korea last month.
Korean media reported on Tuesday last week that a pilot and a flight attendant of national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines were apprehended one day earlier for smuggling a total of six kilograms of gold in their shoes when entering Gimhae International Airport in Busan City on March 10 this year.
The two Vietnam Airlines employees claimed they were paid US$250 per kilogram of gold successfully transported to South Korea, the Korean media said.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) is reviewing all steps in order to clarify why the purportedly smuggled gold could pass through all the security checks in Vietnam before being detected during the same process in South Korea, said Lai Xuan Thanh, director of the CAAV.
Thanh said that as Korean police are investigating the case, they have yet to respond to Vietnam’s questions on it.
According to the CAAV chief, if someone wants to smuggle gold from Hanoi to South Korea, the precious metal has to pass through all the security checks at Noi Bai International Airport.
So the first thing to do is inspect all the related security check steps at the Hanoi-based airport, he said.
“We do not rule out any method to bring gold bars onto airplanes. Maybe the reportedly smuggled gold was not carried through the security gates directly but it was transported by other personnel who could approach the aircraft. Probably, they had been checked thoroughly before,” Thanh remarked.
Security checks – previously focused on passengers – will be centered on airline staff as well, and the surveillance work at local airports will be improved to detect any unusual sign, he said.
Thanh added the illegal shipment of gold or any other thing is related to smuggling and does not threaten aviation safety, so the smugglers will be sanctioned correspondingly.
Tran Hoai Phuong, director of the Northern Airport Authority, toldTuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that all the security procedures involved in the alleged smuggling of the gold will be reviewed.
Specifically, the agency will look back at all stages and question the personnel related to the pilot and attendant’s flight, VN426, for all possible clarifications, he added.
Regarding the reported smuggling of the gold from Vietnam to South Korea, many industry experts have said that it is strange because domestic prices are now higher than world prices, so bringing Vietnamese gold to sell there will not be profitable.
An industry expert says the current price of SJC gold bullion, a popular gold type in the Southeast Asian country, is about VND3.7 million per tael, or 37.5 grams, higher than the world price.
“This gold could be used as a payment for a certain transaction,” the expert speculated.
He added that the gold might originate from abroad and was transported through Vietnam before being sent to South Korea.
What is more, there is almost no difference in the exchange rates between the Vietnamese dong and Korean won against the U.S. dollar.
According to experts, it would be more profitable to import gold directly from South Korea than to ship it from Vietnam considering current world gold prices.
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