Friday, August 17, 2007

VIETNAM Airlines pilot jailed over $93m cash transfer racket

A VIETNAM Airlines pilot who flew foreign dignitaries including Australian politicians has been jailed over a $93 million money transfer racket.

Van Dang Tran, 38, was charged last year after a 16-month investigation into a large scale cash transfer scam involving Vietnam Airlines pilots and money exchange businesses in Sydney and Melbourne.

Tran pleaded guilty to flying $6.5 million from Australia to Vietnam between July 2005 and June 2006.

Tran was offered $50,000 to fly the money in an attempt to avoid paying taxes, bank fees and commissions.

Jailing the Vietnamese national today, NSW District Court Judge Stephen Norrish significantly reduced the maximum 12-year penalty because Tran had become an informant and agreed to give evidence against at least seven others charged over the $93 million plot.

Tran, formerly a Vietnam air force fighter pilot, was sentenced to four and a half years in jail with a non-parole period of two and a half years.

"He was privileged to fly from Vietnam to Australia as part of air crew frequently, without attracting attention,'' Judge Norrish said.

"In 1998 his skill was such he was assigned to the VIP fleet.

"He's flown international dignitaries and as I understand it he's had some contact with our foreign minister.''

Judge Norrish also accepted Tran was a philanthropic man who grew up in war-ravaged Vietnam and wanted to help poor people still suffering the effects of the conflict.

"I'm satisfied his primary purpose was to obtain the money for the altruistic purpose ... of helping others, particularly those less fortunate than himself in his native country,'' the judge said.

Wearing a grey suit, Tran sat quietly nodding as a Vietnamese interpreter relayed the proceedings.
With time already served, Tran, a father of two, will be eligible for parole in December next year.