KhamChanh Daovone, 31, was arrested at Tan Son Nhat International Airport on September 23, 2013 after customs officials discovered 2.4 kilograms (5.3 pounds) of cocaine in his luggage.
Kham claimed his girlfriend Puoy gave him the suitcase and $800 for him to travel from Laos to the Philippines in September 2013. Upon arrival, he was greeted by an African man who claimed to be Pouy's friend and took Kham's suitcase for safekeeping.
The African man returned the suitcase to Kham before he set off back to Laos, but he didn't make it that far and was arrested while transiting in Ho Chi Minh City after two bags of cocaine were found hidden in the suitcase.
Kham claimed he did not know the suitcase contained drugs. However, the court on August 16 dismissed his argument and agreed that he had to take full responsibility for the crime.
Prosecutors had called for the death penalty, but the court decided to show leniency, saying he was a foreigner with a good background and the drugs had not made it onto the streets.
Vietnam has some of the world’s toughest drug laws. Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or cocaine or more than 2.5kg of methamphetamine face the death penalty.
The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.