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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 April, 2005, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Vietnamese jailed for MIA scam
Field excavations in Vietnam
Neither Vietnam nor the US offers rewards to those who hunt for MIAs
A court in Vietnam has jailed six people for attempting to sell the remains of local people as those of US soldiers killed in the Vietnam War.

The group is also accused of swindling money from locals by promising them a visa to the US in return for their help in tracing missing Americans.

Nearly 2,000 US soldiers who fought in Vietnam remain missing in action (MIA).

The court's verdict came just days before Vietnam commemorates the 30th anniversary of the end of the war.

On 30 April 1975, the US-backed South Vietnamese capital of Saigon - now called Ho Chi Minh City - was captured by northern communist forces.

Elaborate scheme

The six accused were found guilty of raiding graves between 2000 and 2004, and digging up bodies to pass them off as those of US MIAs, a court official said on Wednesday.

The alleged ringleader, Dong Van Tinh, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, with the others given lesser jail terms.

Tinh claimed he worked for a humanitarian agency helping to recover MIA remains.

But according to presiding judge Nguyen Phuc Ky, he actually made a living by taking part in an elaborate scam.

Bodies collected from cemeteries and the jungle were given false identity tags and reburied in former battlefields, Mr Ky told the Associated Press.

Local villagers were then videotaped digging for remains, he added, spurred on by false promises that those who helped would be eligible for resettlement in the United States.

The gang also obtained nearly $30,000 from the locals, saying the money would go towards obtaining visas to allow them to travel to America.

Police found nearly 90 sets of human remains - all identified as Asian - in the homes of two of the accused last June.

Since 1986, Vietnam and the US have worked together to determine the fate of those still missing after the conflict three decades ago.

Neither country offers rewards to people who help in the search.





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