While a patient was supposed to be undergoing rehab treatment in a psychiatric hospital, he was actually hosting parties in his soundproofed hospital room, kitted out with strobe lights, loudspeakers, DJ tables—and large quantities of MDMA, ketamine, and methamphetamine.
But that came to an end when the police raided his hospital room in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi last year, seizing the drugs and arresting partygoers. On Wednesday, 39-year-old Nguyen Xuan Quy was sentenced to death along with a second man, Nguyen Van Ngoc, for operating the narcotics ring from the psychiatric facility. Eight others involved were given lengthy prison sentences.
After being admitted to the psychiatric hospital in 2018, Quy befriended hospital staff, which gave him accommodation privileges that were not afforded to other residents. By the end of 2020, his hospital room was a soundproofed rave haven, where hospital staff and fellow residents would enjoy loud music and an assortment of party drugs. Sometimes, Quy even brought sex workers to his parties.
He also recruited hospital residents who were struggling with addiction to help run his drug ring, which also sold to people outside the hospital. By the time they were busted by the police in March last year, Quy and his accomplices were found to have stored, used, or sold over 15 kilograms of drugs—including MDMA, ketamine, and methamphetamine—at the hospital alone. Quy’s room was raided the same day, with police finding five kilograms of various drugs, along with bongs and laptops.
According to local reports, people who arrived at the hospital to buy drugs from Quy often pretended to be caregivers for patients. Quy would sometimes send his accomplices to meet customers outside the hospital, paying them one million Vietnamese dong ($42.60) for each delivery and providing them with free drugs. Other times, Quy would have buyers wait outside the facility before throwing the drugs out of a room on the second floor.
Vietnam’s execution rates—among the highest in the world—are the subject of heavy criticism by international rights groups. The death penalty is shrouded in secrecy, with sentences often not publicized by the Vietnamese government, but it’s estimated that there are more than 1,000 people currently on death row in the country. Besides drug-related crimes, the death penalty is applied for dozens of offenses, including armed robbery, rape, and corruption.
“Vietnam's horrendous record of executions dwarfs that of any of its neighbors but it is not surprising that the government has systematically implemented the death penalty and kept executions out of the public eye,” Phil Robertson, the Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch, told CNN in May.
Besides Quy and Ngoc, four others were convicted for their involvement in the drug ring, being handed prison sentences ranging from five years to life. Two nurses and a technician at the hospital were sentenced to five-to-seven years in prison after telling the court that they knew Quy was using and selling drugs at the hospital, but did not inform their bosses about it.
Do Thi Luu, the former department head of the hospital and Quy’s doctor, was sentenced to three years in prison for abuse of power. The court was told that she had received 10 million Vietnamese dong from Quy every month—a claim that she denied.
She told the court that she knew Quy had renovated his room, but didn’t report it to her bosses because she deemed it to be “appropriate.” It’s unclear if those at the top of the hospital management knew about Quy’s drug ring, though reports submitted by the hospital to the Ministry of Health claimed that they were completely unaware.
Last year, after Quy’s parties were brought to light, Vuong Van Tinh, the director of the psychiatric hospital, was dismissed by the Ministry of Health for negligence. Several executives at the hospital were also reprimanded for not monitoring the hospital adequately.
According to prosecutors, Quy had previously been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder—though the court said this was not a mitigating factor in his sentencing, deeming him to be in a stable state and operating with sufficient autonomy over his actions when committing the crimes.