21 suspects of giant southern Vietnam robbery set free for now

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Lacking sufficient evidence, police in Vinh Long Province's Binh Minh District released 21 suspects who had been detained in connection with the massive robbery of January 4, Tuoi Tre reported Monday.

The suspects, mostly from An Giang Province near Vinh Long, victims and witnesses will be re-summoned on January 8, police said.

A 25-seat bus, which allegedly transported the gang of robbers to and from the crime scene, was seized by police in the neighboring city of Can Tho and returned to Binh Minh for police there to investigate.

Driver Nguyen Hoang Vu, 41, said his vehicle took about 22 people who got off near the agricultural fair in Binh Minh District and asked him to go to Can Tho.

Vu quoted them as having said that they would meet him an hour later in Can Tho or call him to come pick them up.

He said his bus had been rented for two days for VND5 million (US$239), according to a Vietnamnet report.

Around 7 p.m. the gang mingled with some thousands of participants at the fair in order to steal their belongings.

According witnesses who all requested anonymity, some of the robbers even pushed a victim to the ground. A man, who witnessed the robbery and screamed for help, was hit in the face and had to be taken to the general hospital in Binh Minh District.

Tran Hoang Khang, a local police officer who caught one of the robbers, said the culprits were not the least bit clandestine. 

"I have ever never seen a robbery like that," Khang said.

Five of the gang's members were arrested right on the spot, he added.

The other suspects were arrested by Can Tho Police upon leaving Vinh Long for Can Tho and were transferred to Binh Minh District the same day.

The robbers snatched the necklaces of all those they saw wearing them at any cost, said a policeman under the condition of anonymity. "After stealing, they helped one another hide the stolen items."  

Duong Ngoc Ly, one of the victims, said, "From behind, a man approached me and snatched my necklaces violently. I shouted and pointed at the robber but four people standing around me claimed that I accused him unjustly."

Another victim Tran Thanh Van was quoted by Tuoi Tre as saying that she tried to hold her necklace tight but a group of people besieged her nonetheless, managing to pry it away from her.  

Van's husband, Tran Phong Dinh, caught one of them, but a woman, around 1.6 meters tall and aged 17-18, intervened, pleading with Dinh to let the man she claimed was her boyfriend go.

Refusing to do so, Dinh phoned the police, but the woman quickly grabbed the suspect's wallet and ran away. Half of Van's necklace, which broke in half during the robbery, disappeared along with the fleeing woman.    

Van and Dinh said they remembered their faces and could identify those involved. 

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