The People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City has brought 16 Vietnamese to court for their alleged involvement in a $1.5 million cryptocurrency robbery and kidnapping. Shockingly, two of the defendants are former police officers. Despite being one of the world leaders in cryptocurrency adoption, Vietnam has yet to implement a legal framework for this asset class.
The Movie-Like Story
A local media outlet reports that the drama began in 2018 when Le Duc Nguyen advised Ho Ngoc Tai to sell 1,000 BTC (worth approximately $4.2 million at the time) to purchase other digital currencies. However, the investment did not work out, leading Tai to suspect that he had fallen victim to a cryptocurrency scam. In May 2020, he formed a team that aimed to steal his lost assets back.
The group, consisting of 16 individuals (including two former police officers), used GPS devices to track Nguyen’s location. They then hired a van, purchased realistic weapons, and kidnapped Nguyen at gunpoint. While in captivity, they demanded that Nguyen’s brother transfer the original amount of 1,000 BTC to Tai’s wallet. However, the gang discovered that Nguyen’s brother did not have the demanded amount and returned only $1.5 million worth of cryptocurrency. They then abandoned the victim in Thu Duc, which is roughly 15 kilometers north of the center of Ho Chi Minh City.
The Vietnamese law enforcement recently brought Tai and his 15 accomplices to trial. The mastermind initially confessed to the crime, but later recanted during the investigation. The other defendants claimed that they believed Tai would collect the debt from Nguyen through legal means and not kidnapping.
Vietnamese Enthusiasm for Cryptocurrency
Vietnam frequently tops studies on cryptocurrency adoption. In September 2022, blockchain service provider Chainalysis estimated that Vietnam had a perfect score of 1.000 in this area, making it the world leader in cryptocurrency adoption. 21% of the population have reportedly used or owned digital currencies. The “Vietnam Crypto Market Report 2022” released in March found that 17% of Vietnamese (around 16.6 million people) are HODLers, and nearly a third of them have invested in bitcoin. The report claimed that Vietnam was second to Thailand in terms of cryptocurrency adoption within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).