The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court has ruled that Vietnamese residents - Ho Ngoc Tai and Tran Ngoc Hoang - will spend their lives in prison for kidnapping an individual and stealing $1.5 million worth of bitcoins from him.
14 other people who also participated in the crime were sentenced to terms ranging from 9 to 19 years.
Tai, 34, and Hoang, 40, were slammed with life imprisonment for orchestrating a sophisticated kidnapping and later draining $1.5 million in BTC from the victim.
According to local law, digital assets are illegal in Vietnam, which means that individuals or businesses cannot accept them as currency or means of payment. Nevertheless, the defendants managed to convert the stolen BTC into 18.8 billion VND (about $800,000). The court ruled that the criminals should compensate the victim with this amount.
Tai and Hoang weren't the only people behind the case. They were supported by 14 other associates, who will also go to prison. However, none of them will remain behind bars for life, with sentences ranging from 9 to 19 years.
Interestingly, two of them - Nguyen Quoc Dung and Nguyen Anh Tuan - served as police officers a few years ago. The first was sentenced to 17 years, while the second will remain in a correctional facility for 12 years.
As CryptoPotato reported last week, the saga began five years ago when Le Duc Nguyen advised Ho Ndoc Tai to sell 1,000 BTC (equivalent to over $4 million at the time) so he could buy other digital assets. The investment, however, did not turn profitable, and Tai suggested that he had been the victim of a fraudulent scheme.
He assembled a gang to try to recover his funds, using sophisticated methods to track Nguyen's location. The team also rented a van, purchased weapons, and kidnapped the target at gunpoint.
The criminals ordered the victim's brother to transfer the initial amount of 1,000 BTC to Tai's wallet, but he was unable to provide the full amount. After restoring $1.5 million in bitcoins, they abandoned the man in the town of Thu Duc: not far from Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnamese police, however, were quick to detect the crime and arrested all 16 suspects. While Tai initially admitted to leading the operation, he later recanted his confession. On the other hand, his associates said they believed they would only collect the victim's debt and not participate in a kidnapping.