Vietnamese-Australian woman sentenced for failing to declare 10.5kg of gold

By Pham Trung Bac Hanoi (dpa) – An appeals court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced a Vietnamese-Australian woman to seven years in prison for failing to declare 10.5 kilograms of gold when entering the country, state media reported Thursday. Diana Ma, 57, was arrested at the Ho Chi Minh City airport in September 2005 after customs agents found 32.5 kilograms of gold jewellery, worth 260,000 dollars, in her luggage. She had declared only 22 kilograms. The court Wednesday quashed her appeal against an earlier conviction and added four years to her original sentence, the online newspaper VnExpress reported. The Vietnamese-born Australian citizen had bought the jewellery in Hong Kong to resell in Vietnam after her tourism business failed, the report said. Ma was initially released on bail and fled to Hong Kong, but was rearrested in August 2008 when she returned to Vietnam to ask for her gold back. The appeals court extended her sentence according to guidelines based on the amount of gold smuggled. Under Vietnamese law, smuggling over 1 billion dong (52,000 dollars) worth of gold is subject to a prison sentence of seven to 14 years.