Gang leader probed for long-standing crime spree

By Giang Chinh, Pham Du   April 27, 2020 | 12:08 am PT
Gang leader probed for long-standing crime spree
Nguyen Xuan Duong has been arrested for running a mafia operation in Thai Binh Province in northern Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Thai Binh Police.
Nguyen Xuan Duong, 49, is being investigated for running a mafia-like operation that manipulated land auctions and extorted funeral companies for years.

Police in the northern province of Thai Binh arrested Duong on April 10, a day after issuing a warrant for him and have since launched three investigations into various criminal activities as well as reopened an old case against him.

According to Thai Binh authorities, Xuan Duong returned to Vietnam in 2007 after years of working in Russia, and quickly gathered a group of underlings with whom he committed about 20 crimes, inflicting violence on others and public disorder. The authorities claim that police were unable to implicate Duong because he had not directly participated in the crimes.

Real estate business

In 2008, Xuan Duong got married to Nguyen Thi Duong and entered the real estate market, trading in properties and brokering property deals. Since 2010, his wife has registered three household businesses, none of which generated any revenue or paid any tax.

The couple then founded the Duong Duong Co. Ltd. in 2010 with a charter capital of VND6 billion ($256,000) and listed it as participating in various businesses including real estate trading, with Thi Duong as the company's director. Since its founding, this company has only paid the annual license fee and no tax because it was "not generating revenue."

Despite their companies reporting no revenue, the couple enjoyed a lavish lifestyle with large houses and luxury cars, owning many valuable land lots and being able to organize many charities as well as other events attended by famous artists.

After many individuals and organizations denounced the couple and accused them of criminal activities, Thai Binh leaders requested a police investigation in late 2017. However, it took more than two years for the police to open a case, which happened this January.

Among the crimes the couple have been accused of is criminally manipulating land auctions in the province since 2018, with the Duong Duong Company frequently participating in auctions of public land and winning the majority of them with bids barely higher than the starting bid. The couple went on to sell these land lots for huge profits.

When attending the land lot auctions, the couple was typically accompanied by several dozen men who reportedly harassed, threatened and even assaulted other auction participants.

Funeral companies

In late 2017, the couple established a so-called Thai Binh Funeral Association with Xuan Duong as chairman without permission from provincial authorities. Then Duong and his henchman Ninh Duc Loi divided the companies into operating territories and demanded that they pay "association fees" and donate to the association's "charity fund" for each cremation performed.

Companies that refused to pay were subsequently threatened and harassed by Xuan Duong until they complied or stopped operating in Thai Binh. The victims were afraid to report the extortion.

The final blow

The criminal activities of the couple came out into the open when a case of assault was reported to the police late last month. The incident occurred at Duong Duong Company's office, which also doubled as the couple's home.

According to the investigation, the Duong Duong Company had hired bus driver Trinh Ngoc Anh to deliver a package to Hanoi on March 30 but the delivery was late, prompting Xuan Duong to threaten Anh and demand that he return to Thai Binh to "talk."

However, when Anh arrived at the Duong Duong Company's office later that day, Thi Duong instructed two of her employees to detain and beat him so badly that he had to be hospitalized with a broken nose and jaw.

Thi Duong and her two employees were arrested April 7 for "deliberate infliction of bodily harm upon another person," while Xuan Duong was also arrested three days later while he was on the run for his involvement in the incident.

Investigation resumes

Following this breakthrough, on April 14, Thai Binh police resumed an investigation that had been suspended five years ago. In that case, Xuan Duong and his men were accused of beating up a mother and son duo right at the local police station while attempting to collect an alleged debt from them.

While the incident allegedly occurred inside the police station and resulted in a victim suffering a fractured jaw, the initial investigation was suspended after six months due to an apparent lack of evidence and witnesses.

The provincial police also launched two criminal investigations into the couple's manipulation of land auctions and into Xuan Duong and Loi's extortion of funeral companies. The investigation into the couple's land auction crimes has so far resulted in four officials from Thai Binh's Department of Justice and Department of Natural Resources and Environment being placed under investigation for abuse of power.

Police have also started working with tax authorities to look into Duong Duong Company's business activities.

In an announcement issued by the Government Office on April 14, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh instructed Thai Binh's steering committee on crime prevention and control to swiftly investigate and clarify the crimes committed by Xuan Duong's gang, stressing that their many criminal activities in recent years have negatively affected social order and security, and triggered public discontent.

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