Australian woman, 73, sentenced to death on drug charges

A Vietnamese court sentenced a 73-year-old Australian woman to death for trafficking heroin.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A 73-year-old Australian woman, who was born in Vietnam, was sentenced to death for trafficking heroin hidden in bars of soap.

Nguyen Thi Huong was found guilty of possessing 2.8 kg of heroin stuffed into 36 bars of soap in her baggage whilst boarding a flight to Australia in December 2014.

Huong told the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court she was given the soap as a gift by a woman, identified only as Helen, while they were on a trip to the coastal city of Vung Tau.

She wanted to take them to Australia as gifts and was not aware of what they contained.

Her defence attorney was not able to prove the existence of Helen.

The court ruled that the offence was "extremely dangerous to the community" and found her guilty. She now faces death by lethal injection.

Huong has 15 days in which to appeal against the death sentence.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing assistance to Huong and her family, ABC news reported.

"We are concerned that an Australian citizen has been sentenced to death in Vietnam," the department said in a statement.

"According to Vietnamese law, the accused can appeal the sentence so there is still some way to go before this legal process concludes."

"We will continue to provide consular assistance and support to the woman and her family," it added.

In June 2016, another Australian man, Nathan Jones, 34, was sentenced to life in prison for trying to smuggle more than 3 kg of heroin into the country. His death penalty sentence was reduced to life in prison due to Jones’ limited mental capacity.

In late 2013, Vietnam adopted the use of lethal injections for capital cases instead of firing squads. 

The death penalty is applied in Vietnam in cases of trafficking of 100 grams of heroin or more. 

TRTWorld and agencies