A court in Vietnam has sentenced a 73-year-old Vietnamese-born Australian woman to death for trafficking heroin hidden in bars of soap.

The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court last week found Nguyen Thi Huong guilty of possessing 36 bars of soap stuffed with 2.8kg of heroin in her baggage as she was boarding a flight to Australia in December 2014, Vietnamese media said.

Court officials and Australian diplomats in the city could not be reached for comment about the case.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was "concerned that an Australian citizen has been sentenced to death in Vietnam" but added that the woman can appeal the sentence "so there is still some way to go before this legal process concludes".


"We will continue to provide consular assistance and support to Huong and her family. Universal opposition to capital punishment is a long-established policy of Australian governments," it said.

The Tuoi Tre newspaper and news portal tuoitrenews.vn reported that Huong had said she was given the soap as a gift by a woman, identified only as Helen, while they were on a trip to the coastal city of Vung Tau.

Huong told the court she wanted to take them to Australia as gifts and was not aware of what they contained.

However, the Ho Chi Minh City Police newspaper, controlled by the city's police, said Huong had failed to prove that the other woman was real.

The court ruled that the offence was "extremely dangerous to the community" and found her guilty. She now faces death by lethal injection.

Huong has 15 days to appeal against the death sentence.

The death penalty is applied in Vietnam in cases of trafficking of 100g of heroin or more. In late 2013, Vietnam adopted the use of lethal injections for capital cases instead of firing squads.