Crew quizzed as 6.4kg gold stash found on Vietnam Airlines flight
Vietnamese authorities discovered almost 6.4kg of gold bars stashed in the cockpit of a Vietnam Airlines flight from Hong Kong to Hanoi last week - and no one would admit owning them.
Police found the gold in the co-pilot's seat on flight VN791 which arrived at 3pm from Hong Kong on February 11.
The crew - a Polish captain, two Vietnamese co-pilots and seven flight attendants - denied any knowledge of the HK$1.6 million haul when questioned by police.
Polish captain Gerard Kolanowski, co-pilot Trinh Quoc Chien and apprentice Nguyen Thanh Trung were suspended pending investigation, the Thanh Nien Daily reported.
An official from Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport said authorities were probably tipped off about the gold because investigators boarded immediately after the plane landed.
Under Vietnam's airline regulations, passengers entering the country cannot carry jewellery worth more than 5 million Vietnamese dong (HK$2,300), and passengers must obtain a gold import licence if they have gold exceeding this amount.
The airline allows pilots and flight attendant to carry goods, including gold, into Vietnam only once a month and limits the value of such goods to 5 million dong.
Vietnam Airlines released a statement on Thursday saying it would take appropriate action against any staff found to be involved in the shipment, Thanh Nien Daily reported.
Koo Tong-fat, director of Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Co, said 6.4kg of gold was worth about HK$1.6 million.
'A small jewellery firm may transport its gold by staff taking flights to other countries, but a big firm must transport its goods by cargo flight,' Mr Koo said.
Hong Kong Customs said passengers departing Chek Lap Kok airport were not required to declare gold they possess.
Gold smuggling into Vietnam has increased as the price has surged in the past six months.
The Vietnamese government temporarily suspended all gold imports in June last year to support the depreciating dong.
Vietnamese investors have rushed to buy gold as a hedge against inflation.
Under Vietnam's airline regulations, passengers entering the country cannot carry jewellery worth more than HK$2,300
The value, in Hong Kong dollars, of the gold bars found on the co-pilot's seat on flight VN791 is: $1.6m