A court in Ho Chi Minh City has handed down jail terms of up to three years to seven people convicted of manufacturing and selling fake Heineken beer as part of a ring that was busted more than a year ago.
The HCMC People’s Court Tuesday sentenced Vo Hoang Giang, 35, the ringleader, to three years in prison for “producing and selling fake food [and/or drink].” He was also fined VND20 million (US$941) for the scam, which involved 153 cases of fake Heineken seized by police.
His accomplices – Ha Van Cu, 33, Tran Van Hung, 34, and Vo Ngoc An, 47 – got two years each for producing the fake Heineken.
Nguyen Van Tan, 36, and Nguyen Hong Tuyet, 34, got 18 months and Vo Dong So, 42, got 30 months because they only traded but had not produced the fake Heineken.
Tuyet was the only defendant to get a suspended sentence.
The HCMC police department’s economic crimes division caught So and Tan on May 18, 2012 loading 23 cases of Heineken onto a truck in Binh Chanh District, according to the indictment.
Their confession led to the seizure of another 142 cases of Heineken and 20 cases of Saigon beer, alocal brand, at two houses in Binh Chanh.
Investigators later concluded that 153 of the 165 Heineken cases seized had been mixed with Saigon beer.
Giang confessed to renting houses in early May, 2012, and to buying device and hiring Cu, Hung and An to clean used bottles, mix and bottle the beer.
They mixed real Heineken beer withSaigon beer at ratio of 1:2. Giang hired So to buy the ingredients and the used bottles and caps from junk traders and deliver the beer; and Tan as the driver, using a truck rented from Tuyet.
Giang said his ring sold around 1,000 cases of its fake Heineken to stores in the city, but prosecutors only charged them for the production and sale of the 153 cases confiscated in May, as evidence of the rest has yet to be found.
The judge said he was lenient since the fake Heineken did not contain harmful toxic substances.
Under Vietnam’s Penal Code, those who produce and/or sell counterfeit food products may be jailed from two to seven years. If the crime is organized or causes “serious consequences,” violators are subject to five to 12 year prison terms.
Thanh Nien exposé busts fake beer business in Vietnam metroPolice bust Heineken counterfeiting ring in southern Vietnam
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In “extremely serious” cases, the punishment may extend to 20 years, life in prison, or even the death sentence.
Those who commit the crime can be fined VND5-50 million and/or have all or part of their property seized.
Last month, HCMC police also arrested four alleged members of a ring that produced and sold fake Heineken and Tiger beer to restaurants in the city.
The arrests came on the heels of a Thanh Nien exposé, which found bottles that contained a mixture of either Tiger or Heineken beer and Saigon beer.
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