Grocery store, restaurant owner accused of kidnap speaks
AFTER more than a week sitting and watching proceedings from the dock, Van Dat Vu was in the stand yesterday, to address the court.
He stands accused of kidnap, extortion, deprivation of liberty and the unlawful use of two vehicles, as he allegedly transported two victims to his Richlands property after tying them up with tape and locking them inside a shipping container overnight on January 14, 2017.
Once inside, the Crown alleged Vu demanded they pay $1 million or be left inside to die.
The two victims, Ha Thi Pham and her husband Tien Van Hoang, told the court last week they recognised Vu as one of the masked men who abducted them as they were regular visitors to his Darra business, Bac Thien Market.
Ms Pham said she recognised his voice and Mr Hoang said he saw his face when he poked his head briefly inside the container without a mask on.
With the prosecution's case concluded, defence barrister Dominic Nguyen told the court it was a trial not about escaping a container, but the couple escaping the money they owed to a number of people by getting police involved.
The court heard previously Ms Pham owed $1.4 million to another Vietnamese woman, My Le, and thousands more to other debtors as a result of a serious gambling problem.
Mr Nguyen said in the two and a half years since the alleged kidnapping, they have repaid none of the money they owe.
On the stand Vu, 58, said he knew Ms Pham as a regular customer to the shop he has owned and operated for 30 years and began lending her money about six months before the alleged incident.
She would borrow $5000 a time, handed to her through her car window in the carpark next to his shop, and she would pay the money back with an extra $100 interest.
Vu said she was always reliable with her repayments and borrowed money on 10 occasions.
"(Ms Pham and Mr Hoang) owed me nothing," he said.
"She repaid me very well."
The court heard he was well known in the Vietnamese communities of Brisbane and Ipswich as someone who lent money.
"I knew most things about (the) Vietnamese community," he said
He said he was very busy with his businesses on the day of the alleged kidnapping, which was a Saturday, and arrived at his shop at 7am or 7.30am.
Vu said he was busy throughout the day as he worked in his shop, market and adjoining restaurant and his son and those who worked with him saw him regularly throughout the day.
He said he finished work in the restaurant for a function at 8.30pm or 9pm and returned home to go straight to sleep.
Vu then said he woke up at 2.30am the next day to set up for a market at Sandgate with his wife.
Ms Pham told the court last week she was kidnapped about noon and her husband a couple of hours later.
Photos of his four-and-half acre property on Freeman Rd showed rolls of black tape inside his home.
Vu said that they were bought from a market for $2 to sell in his shop for $5 and the excess rolls were kept at his house.
The witnesses will be called to give evidence in court today.
Vu told the court he had lived at the Freeman Rd property since 2010 and sold it in 2017 for $2.8 million.
He said at one point Ms Pham and Ms Le had approached him to borrow $200,000 as part of a 'joint venture' as they said they had a list of 40 people willing to borrow $5000 at a time.
He calculated, with interest, he could make $4000 a week, or $200,000 a year, and considered the offer.
But when he asked to see a list of the people, the women refused and he pulled out.