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The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said on Wednesday that its First Secretary to South Africa, Ms. Phi Vu Moc Anh, has been recalled to account for the incidence where she was videotaped transacting with a notorious rhino horn syndicated smuggler.
MOFA Department of Information and Press announced on November 19 that, right after the news was reported on South African media and television, MOFA instructed its Embassy in South Africa to verify the news and submit a detailed report.
MOFA also reiterated Vietnam’s determination to strictly punish all officials guilty of illegal doings, such as smuggling of endangered wildlife under Vietnamese law and in accordance with international treaties. Vietnam is currently signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Talking to Tuoi Tre yesterday, Ambassador Tran Duy Thi confirmed that during the November 18 meeting, First Secretary Vu Moc Anh kept denying her involvement in rhino horn trafficking, admitting only that she “helped transfer” the horns to two Vietnamese companies (the horns smuggled on that day included three rhino upper horns).
Ms. Moc Anh said she had received at noon a call offering to sell her rhino horns, but she declined. Some time later she received calls from two Vietnamese asking her to help by “having a look at the horns”. She said “I came out to have a look and help handle the horns for them.”
The man caught on the footage with Ms. Moc Anh during the transaction was identified as a Mr. Giang, a Vietnamese who frequently travels between Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth. “So far Ms. Moc Anh is insisting she was just helping people,” – Ambassador Thi said. He said the Embassy is now raising the issue of “what exactly is meant by ‘helping’?”
With regards to Counselor Pham Cong Dzung’s car appearing in the footage, Counselor Dzung answered Tuoi Tre that “the car is registered under my name but I was not the one to use it on that day.” He said two families share the use of the car at the embassy.
As to the time when a Vietnamese was arrested with his car full of rhino horns, Dzung said it was just a coincidence, reiterating that he had never used the car for long distance trip. He added that he has been investigating why the car was found in that area.
(Published in Tuoi Tre print edition November 20, 2008. Original Post)