BRITISH diplomats are seeking urgent visits to a convicted Hong Kong car smuggler now serving an eight-year jail sentence in Ho Chi Minh City's maximum-security prison. The British Consulate has been able to confirm earlier reports that John Lam Hoi was being held in Chi Hoa Prison for car smuggling, but have been denied access. Diplomatic sources said the Vietnamese authorities had not allowed visits to Lam on the grounds that he may appeal, but had said he was in good health. It is understood that Lam had 15 days to appeal against the April 17 court decision, but it is not known if he had done so. Members of Lam's family were also thought to have been turned away for the same reason. 'His appeal period is up, so we are confident of being allowed to see him soon,' a British source said. Lam, thought to be in his 50s, has been based in Ho Chi Minh City since 1992. Local press reports said Lam, a director of Chary Trading Development Co (Hong Kong), had worked with overseas Vietnamese Nguyen Van Bac to smuggle several cars into Vietnam. The reports said the pair imported the cars as gifts, exempting them from 200 per cent tax, and sold them on the open market. Bac was sentenced to 10 years. British officials visit Chi Hoa to see Wong Chi-shing, a Hong Kong man on death row for trying to smuggle more than five kilograms of heroin through Vietnam in 1993. Wong is the only foreigner to be sentenced to death in modern Vietnam. British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd lodged an appeal for clemency for him last September.