Two men sentenced to life for stealing US$1.5mil in cryptocurrency

HCM CITY (Vietnam News/Asia News Network): The HCM City People’s Court on May 16 sentenced two men from Danang, Ho Ngoc Tai, 34, and Tran Ngoc Hoang, 40, to life imprisonment for stealing cryptocurrency worth more than VNĐ37 billion (US$1.5 million).

The court also sentenced 14 other defendants from nine to 19 years, including two former police officers, Nguyen Quoc Dung, 43, and Nguyen Anh Tuan, 31, who received 17 years and 12 years, respectively.

In addition, the court ordered the defendants to jointly compensate VNĐ18.8 billion to the victim.

According to the court, currently cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin is not legal in Vietnam as the law does not accept cryptocurrency as a currency or a payment method.

However, the defendants successfully converted the stolen Bitcoin to VNĐ18.8 billion so they need to compensate this amount to the victim, it noted.

According to the indictment, in 2018, Tài sold 1,000 Bitcoin valued at over VNĐ100 billion, after following the advice of Le Duc Nguyen, 35, to invest in other cryptocurrencies on international exchanges.

However, Tai’s investment suffered significant losses, leading him to believe that he had been deceived by Nguyen and wanted reimbursement.

In May 2020, Tai, who is the case’s mastermind, enlisted the help of a group of 15 people to develop a plan for stealing cryptocurrency from Nguyen.

The group used GPS trackers to monitor Nguyen’s movements, and on the night of the robbery on May 17, one member intentionally crashed his motorbike into Nguyen’s car on the HCM City-Long Thanh-Dau Giay expressway.

After Nguyen got out to check on the situation, the other members kidnapped him, forcing him into a van at gunpoint.

Other members forced Nguyen’s wife and children into another van, using needles containing “fake HIV-infected blood” to threaten to infect the wife and children with the deadly virus in order to force Nguyen to transfer 168 Bitcoins (valued at VNĐ37.1 billion) to Tai.

The group also coerced Nguyen into contacting his brother requesting a transfer of the original 1,000 Bitcoins to Tài but did not succeed.

Cryptocurrency or crypto is a form of currency that exists digitally or virtually and uses cryptography to secure transactions.

Vietnam has emerged as a hub for crypto adoption in the Asean region with nearly 17 million crypto owners.