EXONERATED: Business owner Van Dat Vu was found not guilty on all eight charges before Ipswich District Court.
EXONERATED: Business owner Van Dat Vu was found not guilty on all eight charges before Ipswich District Court. Darren Cartwright

Why business owner was found not guilty on kidnap charges

A BUSINESSMAN and prominent member of the Vietnamese communities in Ipswich and Brisbane has been exonerated of accusations he kidnapped a married couple and kept them locked in a shipping container overnight, with threats of leaving them there unless they handed over $1 million.


Following a two week trial in the Ipswich District Court, a jury found 58-year-old Van Dat Vu not guilty on all eight charges before the court including extortion, kidnapping, deprivation of liberty and the unlawful use of their cars to transport them to his Richlands property.

The Crown case placed Mr Vu at the centre of a scheme to abduct Ha Thi Pham and Tien Van Hoang on January 14 2017 before they escaped in the early hours of the next morning and flagged down a police car on Freeman Rd.

Defence barrister Dominic Nguyen argued the Goodna couple orchestrated the kidnapping to escape from debts of more than $1.5 million and get police involved as a way to avoid their debtors.

"This case is about escaping but not from a container," Mr Nguyen said.

The court heard Ms Pham owed $1.4 million to another Vietnamese woman, My Le, and thousands more to other debtors due to a spiralling gambling problem.

She had been at a Gold Coast casino on the morning of the day she said she was kidnapped.

Ms Pham had also borrowed $5000 from Vu on several occasions, receiving the cash payments through her car window while parked at the back of his shop, including on the day of the alleged abduction.

The defence argued those meetings explained why Mr Vu's DNA was found in Ms Pham's Toyota Carola and Mr Vu said he never had any issues with repayments, which were always received with an extra $100 note.

Witnesses who worked for Mr Vu at his Bac Thien Market in Darra, including son Nghia and fish cleaner Samikannu Muruganantham, told the court he had been a consistent presence at the shop on the day he was said to have tied up the couple and forced them in the container.

Mr Vu said he worked in the shop and adjoining restaurant from 7am until about 8.30 or 9pm on that day, where he went straight home to bed and got up at about 2am the next morning to prepare for a market.

Mr Vu told the court he was a well known figure in the Vietnamese community and many people approached him to borrow money.

Ms Pham had once approached Mr Vu with a friend who wanted to grow Asian vegetables on his Richlands property and he told them they could come to his home at any time to check it out.

Mr Vu told the court he was unsure if they ever did visit his property.

He had also been approached by Ms Pham and Ms Le to lend them $200,000 as part of a joint venture to then lend the money out to 40 other people looking to borrow cash.

When they did not hand over a list of names, he refused.

He sold the four-and-a-half acre property in 2017 for $2.8 million.