Appeals court affirms jail terms for extortionists

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A Ho Chi Minh City appeals court Friday retained jail terms awarded during the first trial of five members found guilty of extorting money from Japanese tourists.

Nguyen Thanh Do, the 27-year-old ringleader, was sentenced to 20 years in jail for "robbery" and "extortion."

Tran Minh Ninh and Nguyen Duc Diep got 13 and 12 years respectively, while Nguyen Anh Tuan and Hoang Van Giao got seven years each.

Do, a homeless man, used the little Japanese he knew to make the acquaintance of Japanese tourists and persuaded them to go to hi-end restaurants.

Later he colluded with four other people, employees of the restaurants, to extort money from the tourists.

Between September and December 2008, Do successfully persuaded six Japanese to come to several restaurants for karaoke singing and partying.

After he received the receipts, he added several charges to make the tourists pay exorbitant fees.

When the tourists refused to pay, he sent the four restaurant employees to beat them up and seize their passports and ATM cards until they agreed.

The gang extorted an estimated VND650 million (US$31,500) from the tourists using this ruse.

On December 7, 2008, the five were arrested while they were forcing a Japanese to withdraw money from an ATM booth before New Epco Hotel in District 3.

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