Record prison sentence for rhino horn trafficker in Vietnam

A subject in Hanoi was sentenced to 14 years in prison for attempting to traffic rhino horn through Noi Bai Airport. This was a landmark case, being the longest prison sentence ever handed out in Vietnam for such crimes.

Photo: Haiquan

Do Minh Toan made falsified digital signatures to avoid custom checks whilst bringing in the 55 pieces of rhino horn, weighing 126 kilograms. However, the shipment looked suspicious to customs officials, so they broke open the plaster blocks and found rhino horns inside.

The rhino horns had come from the United Arab Emirates, and initially nobody came to collect them. After thorough investigation, the police found that Toan had arranged the shipment and arrested him in connection with the crime.

His trial was held on December 4th, 2021, when Hanoi City Court sentenced Toan to 14 years in prison, setting an example for future rhino horn crime cases going forward.

The court ruled in favor of destroying the rhino horn, eliminating any risk of leakage to the black market.

Photo: AFP

Since 2017, we have recorded 317 crimes relating to rhino horn, with a total of 24 people being arrested and charged. The average jail term for those found guilty has been more than 5 years.

As ENV Vice Director, Bui Thi Ha said, “Amid the negative opinions about Vietnam’s handling of wildlife crimes, this heavy penalty showed that Vietnam’s competent authorities have begun to mete out serious punishment to deter people from wildlife crimes.”

While the sale and purchase of rhino horn is illegal in Vietnam, it still remains the primary consumer country for it. There is some belief in rhino horn’s medicinal properties, but much of its popularity comes from the status attributed to owning such an expensive and rare wildlife product.

ENV will keep working to ensure rhino violations are punished in accordance with the law and will continue our public awareness campaigns to influence public attitudes towards rhino horn, thereby changing harmful consumer behaviors.

Learn more about rhino horn crime in Vietnam here: https://env4wildlife.org/rhinos/