Van Dat Vu
Van Dat Vu Darren Cartwright

Verdict returned on businessman accused of kidnap, extortion

LATEST: Jurors returned a verdict of not guilty in the trial of the businessman accused of kidnapping a married couple and keeping them inside a shipping container on his property to extort them for $1 million.

He was charged with eight offences, including two counts each of kidnap, extortion, deprivation of liberty and the unlawful use of a vehicle.

The trial lasted two weeks.

EARLIER: A fish cleaner who works for a business owner and prominent member of the Vietnamese communities in Brisbane and Ipswich said his boss would have been out for sight for no more than 30 minutes at one time on the day he is accused of kidnapping a married couple and keeping them in a shipping container overnight.

Van Dat Du pleaded not guilty to eight charges of kidnap, extortion, deprivation of liberty and the unlawful use of two vehicles.

The Crown are placing him at the centre of a scheme to abduct Ha Thi Pham and her husband Tien Van Hoang on January 14 2017, and keeping them locked inside a shipping container on his Richlands property.

The 58-year-old is alleged to have demanded $1 million or he would leave them inside to die.

On that day, a Saturday, he said he was busy working at his Darra business Bac Thien Market, and adjoining restaurant in preparation for a party held there that night.

Vu said he worked there from 7am until about 8.30 or 9pm, where he went straight home to bed and said staff saw him working throughout he day.

The court heard Ms Pham had borrowed $5000 in cash from Vu on the day she was allegedly kidnapped and Vu said she had borrowed the same amount ten times in the previous six months.

Vu said had no issues with Ms Pham as she was always reliable with her repayments, which always included $100 in interest.

Last week the court heard Ms Pham owed $1.4 million to another Vietnamese woman, Ms Le, as well as thousands to other debtors as a rsult of a gambling problem.

Ms Le was also struggling with people breathing down her neck for money.

Vu told the court he had been approached by Ms Le and Ms Pham about becoming part of a joint venture, which would see him lend them $200,000 for them to then lend out to 40 others.

These people would borrow $5000 a week, paying interest of $200 to be split between Vu and the two women.

Vu said when he demanded a list of the people at a meeting at Ms Pham's Goodna home, it was refused so he pulled out.

"(There were) rumours that I have a lot of money," Vu said.

"A number of people approached me for money. In the Vietnamese community that sort of thing happen (sic). Large amount (sic) of money (is) exchanged like that."

Under questioning from Crown prosecutor Clayton Wallis, Vu suggested the fingerprint found on Ms Pham's seat belt buckle that matched his own could have been left at one of the times he gave her money while she was in her car in the car park of his restaurant.

Mr Wallis pressed why Vu's alibi, signed this month, had taken so long to be given to the Office of Public Prosecutions, as he was legally represented since he was charged on January 31 2017.

Vu denied the scheme was carried out as a way to claw back money owed to him and denied Ms Le owed him $170,000.

"No I won't accept that at all," Vu said.

Samikannu Muruganantham, speaking via a Tamil interpretor, works at Vu's shop and restaurant as a fish cleaner.

He said he remembers working the day of the alleged kidnapping from 8am to 5pm and although Vu came and went, he was never gone for more than 30 minutes.

Mr Muruganantham recalled working in the kitchen of the restaurant later in the day with three other people, but could not recall their names.

He said he was approached by Vu early this year to provide a statement for his alibi.