Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by iStock.
Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by iStock.

A South African man was sentenced to death on Tuesday in Vietnam after he was found guilty of trafficking cocaine from Brazil into the Southeast Asia country.

Tyron Lee Coetzee, 34, was arrested in June 2016 after 1.46 kilograms of cocaine was seized from his luggage at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat international airport, Bloomberg reported, citing the Ho Chi Minh City Law newspaper.

The sentencing came at the end of a half-day trial. Coetzee told the authorities that he was asked to carry the drugs by a Nigerian man, who promised to give him US$3,500 upon landing in Vietnam.

Coetzee was first tried in May 2017. However, the hearing was suspended when the defendant claimed he was schizophrenic, Times Live reported.

His sister Chantal Coetzee, 42, said her brother was supposed to take a domestic flight to Port Elizabeth from Johannesburg in June 2016, Sunday Times reported. When her brother failed to arrive at Port Elizabeth, she reported him missing. Five weeks later, she was told by the South African authorities that her brother was arrested in Vietnam for alleged drug trafficking.

She believed that her brother had been coerced by a trafficking syndicate. She added that her brother had a rough upbringing and was supposed to be psychologically evaluated just days before he went missing. She expressed disappointment at the South African government, which she said had failed to help her brother.

In Vietnam, people can be given the death penalty for smuggling 100 grams or more of heroin or cocaine.

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