HCMC cops charged with $1.6 mln bitcoin robbery

By Quoc Thang   November 24, 2021 | 02:30 am PT
HCMC cops charged with $1.6 mln bitcoin robbery
Members of a group that orchestrated a bitcoin robbery in HCMC in May 2020. Photo courtesy of the police
Two police officers and their accomplices in HCMC have been charged with orchestrating a fake accident and stealing VND37 billion ($1.63 million) worth of bitcoins from a businessman.

Police officers Nguyen Quoc Dung, 40, and Nguyen Anh Tuan, 28, businessman Ho Ngoc Tai, 32, and 14 others face robbery charges in court, prosecutors said Tuesday. The offence carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Businessmen Tai and others were bitcoin investors in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. They engaged in transactions with a man named Le, another businessman in HCMC.

In 2018, Tai and an accomplice, 38-year-old Tran Ngoc Hoang, sold 1,000 bitcoins worth around VND100 billion and used the money to buy other cryptocurrencies, but ended up losing their investment. Tai’s group believed it was Le’s business advice that was responsible for their loss, so they plotted to steal his bitcoins.

Tai hired a private investigator for VND25 million to find Le. Then he enlisted the help of 36-year-old Trinh Tuan Anh, another cryptocurrency businessman, and police officers Nguyen Quoc Dung and Nguyen Anh Tuan.

Tai sent Le’s personal info and pictures of his car to the group, as well as VND50 million as rewards for finding him. Mai Xuan Phot, a detective hired by Tai, illegally used various surveillance technologies to find Le and map his family’s routines.

On May 11, 2020, Tai and some of his friends traveled from Da Nang to HCMC. On May 12, they followed Le’s car to an apartment in District 2. When they were on the Thoi Dai Bridge, Phot ran his motorbike into Le’s car, causing a ruckus. The group intended to wait until Le got off the car to kidnap him, but Le simply drove away.

Five days later, the group learned that Le’s family was traveling from Bao Loc in the Central Highlands to HCMC. They used cars to reach Dau Giay Town in Dong Nai in the middle and intercepted Le’s.

Le and a brother-in-law were threatened with a fake gun when they got out of the car. The group put Le’s wife and children onto another car, threatening them with a syringe tinged with what they said was HIV contaminated blood (actually red ink). They forced Le to disclose the password into his cryptocurrency digital wallet.

Throughout the two hours of traveling back to HCMC, the group beat Le and forced him to call his brother to transfer 1,000 bitcoins. Le however screamed during the conversation, informing his brother that all was not okay.

The group dropped Le and his family by the side of a road in District 2, taking with them phones and cameras to destroy the evidence. The family later reported the matter to the police.

An investigation revealed that 168 bitcoins worth around VND37 billion, and some other properties worth around VND45 million, were stolen.

The culprits were arrested in June. A trial date has not been set.

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